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  • Reviews for Havana Blue by Leonardo Padura
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Reviews for Havana Blue by Leonardo Padura
'Havana Blue (1991) [English 2007], is the first of the Cuban author's Four Seasons Quartet set in Havana in 1989 -- called the Havana Quartet in the English edition. Police lieutenant Mario Conde, known as the Count, investigates the disappearance of an up-and-coming government trade official, who also happens to be an old classmate, married to Tamara, a girl Conde and his friends fantasized about back in high school. The rich characterizations and bittersweet remembrances of old times 20 years ago play as great a role in the book as the investigation. Havana and Cuban politics are effectively woven into the story, as part of the atmosphere. Conde is a bit of a loner, with a goldfish named Rufino, and who hums "Strawberry Fields Forever" when he needs a lift out of depression. The second book in the series, Havana Gold (1994), has just been published in English, to complete the Quartet.'

- StopYoureKillingMe SYKM

'Lieutenant Mario Conde, the hero of Havana Blue, the third of Leonardo Padura's Havana Quartet to be translated (by Peter Bush) into English, is charming, intelligent, usually fed up, often drunk. He wanted to be a writer, but drifted into being a policeman and was too lazy to drift out again. He is called in over the new-year weekend, hugely hungover, to investigate the disappearance of Rafael Morin, a Cuban trade official.

For Conde, the investigation brings bittersweet memories. He was at high-school with the man but, more importantly, had lusted after Tamara, the girl who married Morin. His inquiries reawaken his feelings for her. The search uncovers various sexual secrets and murky financial dealings, but, as with first two novels in the series, the plot is not the main attraction. Conde and the city of Havana share star status, both lovingly portrayed, both fraying at the edges, both prone to depression, yet full of joy.'

- The Times
'Blending noirish police procedural with vivid images of life in contemporary Cuba, Padura has produced another gem in the third of his Havana Quartet (after Havana Black and Havana Red). Police lieutenant Mario Conde is roused from a post-New Year's Eve hangover by a call from his superior reporting the disappearance of Rafael Morín Rodríguez, a high-level official in the ministry for industry. By chance, Rodríguez and his gorgeous wife, Tamara, were high school classmates of Conde, who carried a torch for Tamara for many years. While she claims to be mystified by her husband vanishing, swearing that he was an honest public servant, Tamara remains high on Conde's list of suspects even as he struggles to master his desire for her. That desire threatens to compromise an already sensitive investigation. Padura's taut writing and lyrical images will impress even newcomers to the series.' - Publishers Weekly
'Drenched with that beguiling otherness so appealing to fans of mysteries of other cultures, it will also appeal to those who appreciate the sultry lyricism of James Lee Burke.' - Booklist
'…a magnificent Dickensian evocation of the city's street hassle; it takes in drugdealers, hookers, people queuing for pizza, newly-weds, the hotels and baseball fans, and captures the enthralling gloom of dimly lit, apocalyptic early-evening Havana.' - Times Literary Supplement
'Few contemporary writers understand noir as well as Padura, and far fewer convey Cuba with such grit and sensuality. This third installment in the Mario Conde series tracks the disappearance of our police-lieutenant hero's boyhood friend while navigating the usual deceptions and pitfalls (a femme fatale included) on the way to the discovery.' - Playboy
'Is foul play involved in the vanishing of a popular Cuban politician, or is it another kind of crime? Havana police lieutenant Mario Conde awakes on January 1, 1989, with a pounding New Year's Eve hangover and an uncomfortable assignment: the reported disappearance of Rafael Mor"n Rodr"guez, a charismatic and influential politico in Cuba's ruling nomenklatura. Rafael was last seen dancing with his trophy wife Tamara at a festive party. Conde's discomfort stems from the fact that Tamara was the girl of his dreams. In fact, he's never really gotten over her. Every stage of the probe is punctuated by nostalgic flashbacks-back in the day, Conde and his best friend Skinny Carlos hopelessly loved Tamara and her sister Aymara-followed by Conde's self-recrimination over his current mediocrity. Tamara, at first evasive and unable to name any possible enemies of her husband, suddenly finds an address book full of potential leads. But Conde and his partner, oversexed sergeant Manuel Palacios, have a hard time following up on them. Everyone in Havana's corridors of power throws smoke and red herrings into their path. A break in the case comes from the unlikely Comrade Fernández-Lorea, who's "just like Al Pacino."

Padura's first Conde novel, though the third translated into English (Havana Black, 2006, etc.), features a political smoke-and-mirrors mystery wrapped in a dusky narrative of grim, sophisticated humor.' - Kirkus Reviews

'Lt Mario Conde of the Cuban police force isn't delighted to be woken from a New Year's Day hangover to be called to investigate the case of a missing person. But then he finds the man is someone he was at school with who has done not only much better than him work-wise, but married Conde's long-ago love Tamara. Set in Havana the story takes for granted the corruption, control and massive disparities in wealth that make up the country, as Conde battles to find the truth about the comrade hero who may not be all he appeared to be. And that means spending a lot of time with Tamara, and facing up to the unprofessional possibilities that arise there. Another great read from an author who brings to life his less-than-heroic characters and also the country they live in.'

- Conventry Evening Telegraph

'Published a decade ago but only recently translated into English these award-winning detective novels broke new ground in Cuba with their gritty and very real depictions of Havana life and their flawed protagonist, Lieutenant Mario Conde, revitalising a genre characterised previously by party line-toeing plots and detectives. Like all the best crime fiction the plots in these stories serve as a vehicle for exploring the human condition as much as for creating suspense.'

- Rough Guide Cuba

'There's an intoxicating combination of fantasy and cruelty in much Latin American writing, as embodied in the work of Borges, Márquez or Allende. This tradition ensures that magical realism, though considered somewhat passé, is alive and kicking effectively in the continent's crime fiction. Both Mayra Montero and Leonardo Padura draw on the lush inheritance of pre-revolutionary Cuba, a period of almost hallucinatory cruelty and voluptuousness.
With Padura's Havana Blue, set in the present day but referring to the past, the world of his regular detective, Lieutenant Mario Conde, has similar levels of extra-corporeal experience - although the disembowelling count is lower. Letting ideas surge up out of his deep subconscious is a favourite part of Conde's procedure. "I'd love to work with lunatics," he muses, still longing to write a romantic novel. Whisky, cigars and black coffee with sugar aid the crime-solving, as does sex with the beautiful Tamara.
She was the girl he longed for and lost to Rafael Morin, an eminent "business manager" (crook) who started off in poverty in the barrios. As Conde and his cohorts emerged through high school into adult life, Rafael with the Colgate smile got the girl and climbed up the greasy pole of his career. But now he has vanished, probably the victim of a fate he richly deserves. Yet Conde cannot help mourn the corruption which has overtaken him and the island in general, and destroyed the ideals which created the revolution.
Padura's worldly narrative moves at a rapid pace. But the prefatory note is a meditation on the possibilities of "reality", and Conde continues writing his novel in his head. On a certain level, Padura's work invokes the creative process, as does the journey of Montero's journalist. These novels are about the transcendental life of the imagination as well as death and detection; it is this that makes them such distinctive reading. How unlike the home life of our own dear Morse!'

- Independent
'It's New Year's - hungover time - when Detective Lieutenant Mario Conde known as the Count is summoned by his boss to find Rafael Morín Rodriguez in three days max in Havana Blue. For the Count there is a slight complication in that Rafael Morín is an old high school acquaintance married to Tamara, the Count's longed for love. Further, Rafael Morín considered "an immaculate trustworthy comrade " is reported missing by his wife. Within the allotted timeframe the Count and his assistant Sergeant Manuel Palacios set out to interview the likely people who had last seen Rafael - Tamara, of course, René Maciques the office manager, the secretary, and others. This affects Conde's opinion of Rafael Morín because he knew him beforehand. He complains to Palacios, "And aren't you fed up of hearing people praise Rafael? Or do you think he was a total bastard, a control freak who loved wielding power? " Padura intersperses the narrative with several flashbacks to fill in backgrounds and relationships with the people who populate the story. Although the digressions with lengthy sentences and paragraphs slow the pace, Padura doesn't lose sight of the plot and brings it to a satisfactory conclusion. A leisurely read translated from the Spanish by Peter Bush.' - Border Patrol (crimewritersna)

'I'm off to Scandinavia soon (in my literary travels--actually I'm off to Barcelona in a month in more literal travel terms), but taking a side trip to Cuba first, by means of Leonardo Padura's Havana Blue (that's the title in English of the third of his quartet-plus-one of novels featuring detective Mario Conde, the Count). All of Padura's books are melancholy, and all contain considerable social criticism of the socialist milieu of this not-very-cop-like cop. But Havana Blue seems even more melancholy (though Mario gets the girl, in a sense) and more critical (if I'm not forgetting some of the critical edge of the books translated earlier). Mario repeatedly refers to the "squalid story" that he wants to write, and the story of Havana Blue is pretty squalid. Corruption is the theme here, in a style that would be as corrupt in a capitalist system, but here has particular Cuban inflections. An old school acquaintance is missing, and Mario's reflections on his school years (and his infatuation with that missing friend's now-wife, Tamara) occupy a considerable portion of the novel, notable for both nostalgia and cutting satire of both the educational system of Communism and the still existing class structure of the school and the state. Padura's novels do not proceed directly, nor does the detective. Though mostly told in the third person, it's Mario's vacillation between attention to the case at hand and meditation on his disastrous personal life (and his attention to a small circle of old friends) that form the structure and the surface of the story. A reader has to have a lot of tolerance for Mario's ruminations, which don't leave a lot of room for development of other characters who on the basis of the scant evidence seem very interesting, such as "China," the half-Chinese investigator who helps ferret out the financial corruption in this case. But as a window on Cuba, on a particular kind of Anglo-loving Cuban frame of mind (it's largely music and literature from the U.S. and U.K. that Mario returns to again and again, particularly Hemingway). Havana Blue is an essential addition to the crime fiction available from this setting and this writer.'

- International Noir Fiction

'The third novel in Leonardo Padura's acclaimed Havana Quartet to be translated into English by Peter Bush, is not your usual mystery novel. For a full five-sixths of the book, it is unclear if a crime has been committed. Padura is more interested in writing about middle age and the broken dreams that litter people's lives as they move inexorably toward old age than he is in writing a police procedural. In fact, the Spanish language title of the book is the more evocative Pasado Perfecto, or Past Perfect.
Havana police lieutenant Mario Conde is having a bad day. He wakes up on New Year's Day with a brutal hangover and gets a call from his boss demanding he look for Rafael Morin, one of the lieutenant's high school classmates. In fact, he's the man who married Tamara, the woman Conde has been in love with for years. Needless to say, Conde does not want to get out of bed and go looking for Morin, who is now a high ranking official in the Cuban bureaucracy.
With that phone call, Conde, nicknamed The Count, is put on a collision course with his past. The books cuts back and forth between Conde's memories of high school and the present as he tries to figure out if the too-good-to-be-true Rafael Morin is really the upright comrade everyone says he is. Along the way Padura writes with affection about Havana, Cuban cigars and food. Conde is a gourmand, and there are many lush descriptions of meals throughout the book. The book works well as a window into a place and a culture that, given the current political scene, many people will never be able to experience first hand.
The languid pace of the novel, while it fits well with the novel's tropical setting, may frustrate readers used to stories that move a little more quickly but readers with the patience to follow Mario Conde through the streets of Havana in search of the truth about his lost classmate and himself will be rewarded with a glimpse into a closed society and the closed hearts of men.'

- Indiecrime.blogspot.com
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  • Havana BlueLeonardo Padura