Tuesday, 10 March 2020
Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage #BlogTour
"Speaking of secrets. Speaking of trust! No, he would never trust anybody again... Everything had just become clear, as if someone had opened the window of a dark room filled with junk, dust and cobwebs, letting the sun shine into its dirtiest corners".
The theme of dark secrets and betrayed trust runs through Queen of Bones, a Havana mystery by Teresa Dovalpage.
This is a dark tale of murder, love and loss, and macabre religious practices, with a fast-moving plot and evocative locations.
It's an enthralling read from start to finish, which captures the sights, sounds and vivacity of Havana.
Devalpage has flawlessly created the daily life of Cuba, writing about it with compassion and insider knowledge.
There are oodles of colourful characters and traditional foods.
You will walk along the streets of Havana, exploring the culture, history, religious practices and cuisine.
Juan, a Cuban construction worker, who now lives in Albuquerque, plans to visit Havana for the first time in twenty years. As a young man, he left Cuba on a raft in 1994, together with one of his best friends, Camilo. They got lost and drifted in the Caribbean for nine days without food or water. Juan was barely alive, when he was found. Camilo died on the raft.
He wants to go back to visit his father's grave, and see his elderly grandmother, who's in the hospital with dementia.
Juan's wife Sharon knows he has some unfinished business, but she believes he's also hiding some secrets from her. She insists on accompanying Juan on a trip.
Juan hopes to reconnect with his former friend Victor, who was taking care of Juan's father in his last months.
He is also eager to find out what has happened to two of his ex-girlfriends Elsa and Rosita.
Elsa and Rosita come from different backgrounds.
While Rosita came from a poor family, Elsa's father was part of the government, and because he could pull strings, she was admitted to Instituto Superior de Arte, even if she had no talent for acting. Young Juan hoped to become a classical musician, while Victor wanted to study theatre. Juan and Elsa became a couple.
Rosita was another student at ISA who had a crush on Juan.
When Juan and Camilo decided to leave Cuba, Elsa was supposed to accompany them. Only she never came to the beach with the promised supplies.
And now Juan is ready to face his demons, and find out what has happened to his friends and ex-lovers.
Back in Cuba, his sense of identity is blurred. In the States he's seen as a Cuban rather than American, but in Cuba he's often mistaken for an American. He doesn't truly belong to either country.
The country Juan left has changed in the last twenty years. Some things stay the same, some have changed drastically.
The love of his life, Elsa, is married to an elderly rich Spaniard, and splits her time between Cuba and Spain. Her son is a student in the States.
Rosita is single, and works at the cemetery. She is a devotee of Santeria religion, and as a mortician, is placed in between the worlds of the living and the dead. She follows the old traditions, and prays to the old gods.
And his mate Victor has become Victoria, and appears in a popular drag show at the local club.
Juan's arrival stirs old secrets and hidden memories. When one of these women is killed, it's up to Padrino, a Santeria priest and former detective with the Havana police force to discover the truth, digging deep into the past.
Padrino is an interesting character, who became a Santeria priest after a near-death experience in Angola.
Queen of Bones is both a dark story of family secrets and lies and an evocative portrayal of the city with the complex and fascinating history.
Many thanks to Teresa Dovalpage, Soho Crime and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!
This post is part of the blog tour, which you can follow:
Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has published ten novels and three collections of short stories.
Her first culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018) is set in Havana and features Padrino, a santero-detective. It is loaded with authentic Cuban recipes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldoza (a stew). Her second mystery, Queen of Bones, was also published by Soho Crime in November 2019 and includes elements of Santeria, and again, food - clearly, the author loves to eat! Both novels are rich in detail about life in the island, the kind only an insider can provide.
They are the first two books of Soho Crime's Havana Mystery series. Upcoming are Death of a Telenovela Star (June 2020) and Death under the Perseids.
She also wrote A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010).
In her native Spanish she has authored six novels, among them Muerte de un muricano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain) and El difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, which won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009).
Once in a while she delves into theatre. Her plays La Hija de La Llorona and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (published in Teatro Latino, 2019) has been staged by Aquijón Theater in Chicago.
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I've always wanted to visit Cuba, ever since I was a young girl, and my parents' friends used to tell us stories of Cuba. He was a geologist, and they stayed in Cuba for several years. The lady brought me as a gift a pair of turquoise blue trousers, the likes of which I haven't seen before or after.
They were two-layered, the underlayer was a kind of harem pants, on top of which there were wider trousers with big windows and pockets.
Needless to say, I felt like a super model.
I still haven't had a chance to visit this country but in the meantime I want to show you a selection of photos by Anne Marie Wallace, also known as @anniecoconuts on Instagram (follow her for bright, colourful and cheerful photos). This lucky lady visited Cuba, and with her kind permission I am posting some photos of beautiful Havana (and cars, the photographer clearly loves cars!).Many thanks, Anne Marie!
Just look at all those colours!