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  • Reviews for Havana Red by Leonardo Padura
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Reviews for Havana Red by Leonardo Padura

'Called on to solve the murder of a transvestite found strangled in the Havana woods, Lieutenant Mario Conde is thrown into the thick of a tangled web of mysticism, politics and subversive activity. The subterfuges adopted by people in everyday life, particularly in a climate of repression, are captured perfectly in Padura's seamy, heat-soaked pages and Conde's mask of "fears, wariness and lies" lends him mystique.'

- The Guardian

'In the roasting Havana August of 1989, a scarlet-frocked transvestite is found strangled in the woods. Just a sordid sex crime? All is not as it seems - not with the fate of poor mystical Alex, nor with this scorching novel from a star of Cuban fiction (in Peter Bush's virtuoso translation). Lt. Conde's quest follows the basic rhythm of the whodunit, but Padura syncopates it with brilliant literary riffs on Cuban sex, society, religion, even food (there's a great spicy turkey recipe on page 192).'

- The Independent

'Reading around in the small presses always gives me a sense of adventure. I suspect it's because they tend to search out foreign authors who bring a reformative zeal to genre conventions, discarding old saws and introducing new international themes. A winner from Bitter Lemon, Havana Red is an innovative take on the traditional detective story by the Cuban author Leonardo Padura. Although the florid style (reflected in the translation by Peter Bush) puts a chokehold on the action, it suits the central character, a macho cop known as the Count, whose investigation into the murder of a transvestite leads him to ruminate on his own metaphysical attraction to "this philosophy of mimetics and erasure."'

- Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times

'The mission of that enterprising Bitter Lemon Press is to publish English translations of the best foreign crime fiction. The newest addition to its list is the prize-winning Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura. Havana Red, the first book in his Havana quartet, introduces Lieutenant Mario Conde, known as the Count, an eccentric personality with unusual investigative methods. All his skills are called upon when a murder victim turns out to be a diplomat's son. Padura's powerful writing creates an atmospheric picture of a turbulent city, illuminated by Conde's sardonic commentary.'

- Sunday Telegraph

'Most importantly, though, Havana Red opens the Pandora's Box of how the Revolution treated some of Cuba's most talented writers because they were homosexual. The flashy playwright embodies the qualities of Cuba's greatest playwright, Virgilio Piñera, who was treated harshly by the Revolution's macho leadership, a treatment that Conde learns was even more of a crime, albeit a cultural one, than the violent ones he investigates. And the reader learns that Conde himself has a literary vocation thwarted early on by the Revolution's aesthetic tunnel vision. In Havana Red, Padura lays open the great cultural wound of Castro's Cuba: its poisonous mix of homophobia and artistic repression that has crippled one of the greatest cultural fountains of the Americas.'

- The Miami Herald

'Nothing is what it seems in this case, which has less to do with crime than with the struggle for identity in a corrupt society where outsiders are exiled in their own country. This prize-winning crime noir is the first of a quartet by Cuba's celebrated writer to be translated into English.'

- Daily Mail

'For those who tend to support the revolution blindly and those who tend to attack it from a position of ideological ignorance, this book should be particularly challenging. For it is clear that Padura is a critical voice from within. At times the sarcasm and behaviour of his policeman indicates an almost heretical attitude. Yet Padura remains in Cuba and is celebrated as one of the nation's greatest authors.'

- Shots Magazine

'Havana Red is a terrific Cuban police procedural that provides a dark view of life on the island. The cast makes the storyline as the audience sees first hand how a dedicated cop struggles to solve a murder mystery while the Party looks over his shoulder. Marques is a two edged sword as the government's displeasure with him is a problem, but his access to the underground is an asset. Leonardo Padura has three more Conde novels to come in what has started off as a fantastic first tale.'

- Harriet Klausner, Amazon.com

'This novel has extraordinary originality and power, combining serious literary ambition with a sound mystery plot, including a distinctively Cuban main clue. Though the characters' strivings, failure, and regrets are universal, their story illuminates their country's culture and conditions., with the political elements neither ignored nor allowed to overwhelm the human story. With an excellence prose not lost in translation, this novel may be regarded as a crime-fiction classic and its author a major figure in the genre .'*****

- Jon L. Breen, The Jury Box

'This is Cuban post-Soviet writing at its finest. Peppered with subtle criticisms of dogmatic socialism, the history of Cuba's homophobic past is related in a manner that neither patronises the reader nor condemns the Cuban system. A testimony to the amazing tolerance of Cuba's revolution and the prodigious talent it has produced, this is organic, popular and leftist literature of the kind that Gramsci called for - a signal that Cuban culture is truly alive and well.
Havana Red is perfect read to take along on that Cuban holiday...'

- Dr Stephen Wilkinson
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