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HAVANA RED Paperback – 9 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: BITTER LEMON PRESS (9 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904738303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904738305
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 3.2 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 609,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"A scorching crime novel from a star of Cuban fiction...syncopated with brilliant riffs on sex, society, religion, even food." Independent"Prize-winning crime noir by Cuba's celebrated writer." Daily Mail"Padura's powerful writing creates an atmospheric picture of a turbulent city, illuminated by Conde's sardonic commentary." Sunday Telegraph"Conde is thrown into a tangled web of mysticism, politics and subversive activity. Captured perfectly in Padura's seamy, heat-soaked pages." Guardian

About the Author

Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He has published a number of short story collections and literary essays but international fame came with the Havana Quartet, all featuring Inspector Mario Conde.Like many others of his generation, Padura had faced the question of leaving, particularly in the late 80s and early 90s, when living conditions deteriorated sharply as Russian aid evaporated. He chose to stay. And to write beautiful ironic novels in which Soviet style socialism is condemned by implication through scenes of Havana life where even the police is savagely policed.The crime novels feed on the noises and smells of Havana, on the ability of its inhabitants to keep joking, to make love and music, to drink rum, and to survive through petty crime such as running clandestine bars and restaurants.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie on 23 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
"Havana Red" is so much more than a murder mystery - although it is an excellent example of the genre. Cuban author Leonardo Padura paints a realistic portrait of his lady love, the city of Havana, in this wonderful novel. He doesn't skimp on thrills and chills either!

What makes "Havana Red" so fascinating is that this ode is not to the glamorous vacation oasis of casinos, clubs, and luxury hotels that once brought the city fame. This is a paean, of sorts, to present day La Habana, with its crumbling post revolution colonial buildings which require more than a paint job to restore them to former glory; the winding streets filled with a most unique charm, although in need of repair; traffic jams caused by Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles from a 1958 time warp, Soviet-made Volgas and Ladas alongside newer Japanese Hyundais and Nissans with their cacophony of honking horns that work, amazingly, even with a lack of spare parts; the glorious Malecón, that famous avenue which runs along the seawall, where one can view the ever present Castillo del Morro in the distance. This is the tropical capital of Fidel's Cuba, a lusty city full of character and color, a strange mix of Europe, America, and Africa, a stalwart lady, though faded, who resonates with the syncopated beat of the rumba. Talk of politics is ever present here, despite what outsiders think. Cubans are difficult to repress. Complaints about life and lack of liberty are also prevalent, as well as a strange cynical acceptance about the way things are. This is a city that would still inspire Hemingway and Graham Green...just as it does Leonardo Padura.
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Format: Paperback
Havana Red - original title: `Mascara' (= `Mask') - is one of a quartet of detective novels featuring hard-drinking, angst-ridden detective Mario Conde, who'd really prefer to be a writer. After a transvestite is found strangled in Havana Woods, Conde and able sidekick Manuel Palacios set off on the trail of the killer. There is a rich cast of characters, and the pair have to contend with an ageing, ostracised gay writer, a diplomat, several thugs, an enigmatic but erudite housemaid, and police with dubious motives before solving the mystery.

The problem with this book is that it is so uneven. There is a strong storyline, and whenever the author focuses on the main plot, the book is a real page-turner. Too often, however, there are lengthy asides on various topics like the marginalisation of artists and writers, Cuba's troubled past, and biblical analysis, not to mention Conde's repeated philosophising. Translator Peter Bush has on the whole done a good job, especially with the dialogue sections, but you sense that he struggled at times with the dense prose of the tirades, which may make them sound worse than they are. Defenders of Sr. Padura may argue that, given the turmoil in Cuba of recent decades, his characters have the right to rant, that a Cuban detective novel is unlikely to resemble other detective novels, and that for Padura it's obviously important to document social history, not just write a detective novel. All of this may be true, but it didn't stop me finding some of the rants tedious and out of place in a book of this genre, where I want to be carried along by the action.

Despite its shortcomings, there is a lot to like in this book. There are humorous moments, a couple of erotic episodes, and several beautifully-drawn characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Al on 23 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After loving Havana Blue, I was disappointed by the wandering plotless nature of Havana Red. There is still a great cast of central characters but the lack of plot development makes this a slow read.
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By molko VINE VOICE on 25 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Detective Mario Conde is struggling through life. He's finding no pleasure in his work or his love life and is growing more and more tired of his life in Cuba. Then a transvestite is found murdered and Conde is given the case. Mario is instantly thrown into a world he doesnt quite understand. A world of young gay men and women, promiscuity, drugs, transvestites and theater. Conde is imidiately uneasy, his prejudices has set him with a biased view of this world he's been forced to enter to solve the crime.

Yes this is a crime novel but it attempts to be so much more. The city itself is really quite a driving force. The way Padura describes the city, the heat, the smells and the colours of the city really occupies alot of the book while the investigation takes a back seat. This book isn't bad, it's quite slow going and hard to get into but at times rather beautiful. However take warning that is most definately not first and foremost a crime novel.
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