Havana Fever is a slow burner of a novel, rolling along a gentle pace though tension is never far from the surface. Padura writes with colourful and expressive prose, providing sumptuous descriptions of food, music, and literature, as well as long reflective passages on Conde's life and thoughts. Though he is clearly a skilled wordsmith and storyteller, and I know Havana Fever will appeal to those that love well crafted prose and thick description, my taste is for more action and dialogue and less description and reflection. For large parts of the novel, especially the first half, not very much happens, although the reader gains an insight into Cuban music, literature, a sample of its economy and politics, and the world and friends of Mario Conde. It is not often I read novels in parallel, but I read two novels and one history book whilst also reading this story. In short, Havana Fever is beautifully written and has an interesting plot, but it moved too slowly for this reader.
I bought Havana Fever after a review in the Times, not having encountered Padura before. I have now ordered the first four. Thought the book was brilliant, and captured the atmosphere of Havana perfectly.