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The Beggar's Opera [Paperback]

Peggy Blair
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.85
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Product details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Pintail; Reprint edition (26 Feb 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143186426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143186427
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.4 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,315,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware! 29 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fine novel, but when I bought it from the excellent gaysrus, I did not know, and as a Kindle user this is important!!! It is Midnight in Havana published under a different title in the UK. By one or the other, not both as I did. I emphasise, it is a very fine piece of work, and I await more from Peggy Blair, as she builds the series!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Beggar's Opera 20 Mar 2014
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This is the first Inspector Ricardo Ramirez mystery (also published under the title, "Midnight in Havana") and it begins with the death of his grandmother, when he is only nine years old. She passes to him, "my gift to you, as the eldest child." Her gift is the ability to see the dead and, indeed, as the Inspector in charge of the Havana Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, Ramirez is constantly followed by the victims of the crimes he is investigating. As well as the dead, Ramirez is aided by his subordinate, Detective Rodriquez Sanchez and pathologist, Hector Apiro.

It is Christmas Eve, 2006, and Mike and Hillary Ellis are on holiday. Mike Ellis is a detective from Canada, who recently suffered a violent facial injury, while his partner was killed. However, the holiday which should have helped heal him, has resulted in his marriage crumbling in recrimination and anger. Hillary hates Cuba and, after a major argument, heads home leaving Mike Ellis alone. When a young boy, seen begging from the couple the day before, is found murdered, Ellis is the prime suspect. In Cuba he has no legal rights and Ramirez is under pressure to complete the investigation within a strict timeline. Can Canadian lawer, Celia Jones, save him from the firing squad?

This is an assured and well written debut. If you enjoy crime stories set in unusual locations, then you will enjoy this. I had only a very sketchy idea of what Cuba is like, having never visited the country. Ramirez is hampered, in both his professional and personal life, by shortages - there are few toys, little petrol, meat, soap, pencils or even crime scene tape available.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Race Against Time in Old Havana 13 Feb 2012
By Lou Allin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Inspector Ricardo Ramirez can't shake the ghosts which tormented his dead grandmother. They follow him everywhere, sending mute messages from beyond the grave. How can he tell his wife and children that he suffers from the same rising dementia?
"That policeman should be more careful where he stands," Ramirez said to the dead woman sitting at the medical examiner Apiro's desk....She wore a frilly southern-belle dress and a wide white bandana....The several strands of beads around her neck revealed who she was -or rather had been--a follower of Santeria."
As a nation waits for a new era at the end of the punishing embargo, citizens walk a narrow line on ten pesos a month. The tourist hotels and destinations are off limits to Cubans unless they work there. Soap is impossible to buy, and coffee comes with sugar only. To manage to find a chicken for the Christmas holidays is a triumph.
Suddenly Ramirez's holiday goes on hold. Major Crimes has just picked up a vacationing Canadian lawman for the rape and murder of a young Cuban boy. Mike Ellis gave the kid spare change earlier. But he has no memory of the evening. His quarreling wife left him to return to Canada, and he was alone in a bar, drowning his sorrows in too much rum, wandering from the safe tourist paths into the dangerous back alleys of a raw but tempting world. Forensics from his hotel room look bleak for his case. Unless he can find an advocate, he'll soon be in jail at the mercy of hardened criminals who would welcome the chance to teach a lesson to someone on the other side of the law.
Canadians find Cuba a popular winter destination, but the pleasures of mojitos and white sands mask danger for thrill-seekers. The price is high for Cubans who would break the rules for a few US dollars: the forbidden Internet, closed doors, and a brush with the netherworld. To bribe or not to bribe? It may be the only chance, especially for an innocent.
Under the Cuban system, an indictment must come before seventy-two hours have elapsed. So everyone's under the gun. Help from Canada may be too little too late. Ellis has a high profile, but the beleaguered country is out to show the world that it isn't a mecca for sex tourism. Justice will be swift, but will it punish the right man? Does Ellis, disfigured and wounded from a previous tragic case, have an additional secret or does a monster walk unchallenged through the dark streets of the once exotic city? The horror may twist far into the past.
Talented lawyer turned author Peggy Blair places herself in the forefront of crime fiction with this stellar entry, which came close to snagging the Debut Dagger in Harrowgate. Her characters move with the surety of canny locals or the naiveté of a visitor. The plot advances with the ticking of the clock and the scenes shift seamlessly while maintaining maximum suspense. Whether strolling the crumbling streets of one of the world's most enigmatical cities or moving into the dangerous countryside, the way is smooth and sure. Grabbing life by the throat, the characters are as full-bodied as Cuban coffee and as beguiling as confiscated anejo rum. In the background, along with the ancient African gods that still colour the imagination of this cultural melting pot, is the shadowy figure of Fidel Castro, amid a thousand jokes, orchestrating for the eventual re-entry of his fabled country into the challenges of the 21st century.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and intelligent murder mystery set against fabulous cutltural background 23 Feb 2012
By Evie Seo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Real, captivating and ultimately moving, The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair is a significant addition to the murder mystery genre. It's a poignant and brutally honest story that paints a truly harrowing picture of poverty, abuse, corruption and abominable living conditions in Hemingway's Havana. It's dark, disturbing, thought-provoking, and heart-poundingly thrilling. Not by any means an easy-to-digest book, but one absolutely worth reading nevertheless.

Inspector Ricardo Ramirez is called in to investigate when the body of a little Cuban boy is discovered floating in the ocean in the Caleta de San Lazaro. Drugged, brutally raped and killed with a blow to the head, the boy had last been seen accepting money from a Canadian tourist, Mike Ellis. Witnesses saw Ellis giving the child money, and later on someone made an anonymous phone call to the police station stating that they witnessed a man with his description approaching young boys for sex in Parque Ciudad. A pair of men's briefs had been found in his room - the underwear had the boy's blood on it. Not to mention the polaroid photographs recovered from under the mattress in his hotel room - they were pictures documenting every step of the brutal rape. Mike Ellis has no memory of the previous evening - after the fight with his wife, he spent the night getting drunk at a local bar. It seems Inspector Ramirez has all the evidence he needs to convict the murderer and close the case, but is the case really as obvious as it appears? Or is there more to the story? Is Mike Ellis a cold blooded, vicious murderer, or is someone trying to frame him? With only seventy-two hours to solve the murder case, the race against time begins. Will justice be served?

The first book in the Inspector Ramirez Series is a taut and atmospheric thrill ride that keeps you guessing until the very last page. It's an exceptionally well-written murder mystery, set against a vividly depicted political and cultural background of Cuba. Blair writes with real understanding of Cuban harsh reality, compelling the reader with insights into the troubled society. Her knowledge about forensics, police procedures and related protocols is apparent on every page. The amount of detail is simply mind blowing. Disturbing at times, but mostly very impressive and fascinating. It's a gorgeously suspenseful mindbender, a great example of how the right approach to storytelling - scattering pieces of information throughout the novel, beautifully braiding together the convoluted threads, and diabolically building the tension and mystery - can elevate the book and turn it into a heart-stopping literary puzzle.

Blair did a remarkable job fleshing out the main character, Inspector Ramirez, making him one of the most unique and unforgettable narrative voices in recent fiction. I found him different from all the other detectives/inspectors in popular murder mysteries. Haunted by the ghosts of victims of his unsolved murder cases, dying of a rare (and incurable) type of dementia, struggling to keep his life from falling apart, he was a very convincing and easy-to-connect-with character. And as much as I loved the intelligent and provocative plot line, I think the whole thing wouldn't turn out nearly as good without the well-drawn, complex MC. His presence in the book added a lot of character and flavor, creating a memorable, eerie atmosphere, and turning a solid whodunit story into an absolute masterpiece.

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair is a stunning debut novel and a very promising beginning to a great new mystery series. I'm looking forward to seeing what the author has in store for Inspector Ramirez in the next book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the Beggars Opera? 13 April 2013
By Carolyn Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A book that's difficult to describe and even more difficult to put down with an intricate plot and complex characters. You will be more knowledgeable about Cuba, its culture, and life under Castro when you finish. Do not read anything else for awhile, let the story stay in your head for a bit.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book 8 April 2013
By Margaret A. Renzi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a book full of surprises. I remember feeling a little disappointed when I thought "oh that's it", but it wasn't. It continued to go further and further and things popped up that I didn't see coming. What a treat, particularly since this was a brand new author for me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Havana 2 Mar 2013
By Darlene M. Petri - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I truly liked this book, but found some of the ending predictable though some of it was still a surprise. The surprises were enough to keep me reading and enjoying it. Part of the enjoyment was in the premise that the protagonist, Detective Ricardo Ramirez could see the spirits of dead people, victims whose murders he was to solve. My original interest was prompted by the setting, modern Cuba. Wow, what a setting! The grandeur of old Cuba and the desolation of Cuban life today.A great place to visit, but don't live there. Even visitors can fall afoul of Cuba's onerous laws as befalls Mike Ellis, a Canadian policeman, who finds himself charged with murder. The tension in this novel is the challenge: Ramirez must prove, within 72 hours, that there is enough evidence to indict Ellis while Ellis must prove that he is completely innocent. Cuba it seems has no presumed innocent rules. We get two perspectives to the same investigation, an exciting read in an exotic setting. Close to perfect.
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