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The Beggar's Opera

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  363 ratings  ·  115 reviews
In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Rev...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Penguin Canada (first published January 27th 2012)
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*** Originally posted to: Bookish Book Blog

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 nevertheles...more
Matt Rohweder
I was hesitant to even give this book 2 stars, but the propulsive story behind the mystery deserved it. However, the mystery was jus about the only thing I did enjoy about this book. Beyond that, I found it to be a book that was confused as to exactly what it wanted to be: a murder mystery, a love letter to Cuba, a book about the political (and sexual) culture of Cuba, an examination of individual sexuality, or a ghost story.

The dialogue often felt forced and unrealistic - I had a hard time rea...more
Robert Intriago
I was going to give this book a three star but I enjoyed the twists at the end so much that it moved it up to four. The action takes place in Havana, Cuba, and involves what I think are several main characters, despite what the title says. Yes Inspector Ramirez gets the headlines but Celia Jones and Doctor Aspiro have very important roles and could be considered protagonists.

The book has a fascinating description of Cuban Law, food and life under the Castro regime and also has some beautiful des...more
I loved it. I have never been to Cuba and now feel I have an understanding of the culture and challenges Cubans face.

On top of that, a brilliant, fast paced mystery with a Detective you cheer for, cry with and hope so desperately he solves the crime.

A book I wanted to read cover to cover in one sitting, but it had to happen over three evenings with reading well past my bedtime!

I loved this novel.
Struggling through this....75% finished, and am hoping for a satisfying ending to help me over the fact that Ms Blair's writing style is pedantic and too Canadian.

Ok...finished now....a couple of surprises at the end, but still a "mehhhhh" rating.
A fast-paced crime novel set in Old Havana with a large cast of characters making up the list of witnesses, suspects and investigators. There are multiple mysteries and many secrets woven into the story. This is an ambitious novel that for the most part hits the mark. At its core the crime is a brutal rape (of a child) and his murder. In the process we meet a dwarf (and a tip of the hat to Russian literature and its connections to Cuba) gay men, transgendered, prostitutes, a scarred-faced canadi...more
Quote prior to prologue:

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell.

It only took me to page 5 to get the first connection to this!

I first heard of this book (or paid attention, anyway) when I got a link to the 2012 CBC Bookies Awards from the blog of author Louise Penny, whose book 'A Trick of the Light' was also nominated (I voted for her book - the only one of the 5 Thriller, Mystery or Crime novels...more
Lou Allin
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 wh...more
This, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil Lost

Set in Old Havana,The Beggar's Opera follows several main characters as they race against time to solve a brutal assault & murder of a young boy. It's Christmas morning when the boy is found in the water, and Inspector Ramirez is heading up the investigation. Ramirez races against the clock to secure an indictment, all while he believes himself to be suffering from the same disease that his grandmother had - seeing the ghosts of...more
Longtime lawyer, first time mystery author, Peggy Blair introduces Havana police Inspector Ricardo Ramirez in THE BEGGAR’S OPERA (ISBN 978-0143186427, trade paperback, $16.00). The story is set in Havana, Cuba between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, 2007.

Ramirez heads the Major Crimes Unit in a beautiful but crumbling tropical city. He is afraid he that he is dying of dementia because his beloved Grandmother died from that disease and he thinks he has the early symptoms. Ghosts of murder victims,...more
This is a terrific new series with an unlikely setting and protagonist. The setting is modern Cuba. Fidel retired, but nothing has really changed. There are so many highly educated people that they are tripping over one another. Corruption runs rampant. (Did you really expect "socialism" to be any different?) In this debut novel, we meet Inspector Ramirez. Although not that old, he is suffering from hand tremors and delusions. He has been told his grandmother died from a rare form of dementia al...more
Anne Cobham
Review of The Beggar's Opera, the debut novel by Canadian author, Peggy Blair.

The Beggar's Opera, like its namesake (an 18th century English satirical opera), tackles the themes of politics, poverty and injustice. The Cuban setting is atmospheric and haunting, and although I have never personally been to Cuba, I found the descriptions of Havana had an authentic feel, and were at once alluring and disturbing. Peggy Blair's taut, brisk prose moves the story along quickly, and the twists and turns...more
There's a great sense of place in this mystery set in Havanna, Cuba. Canadian Mike Ellis has taken his wife here to rekindle their marriage. The attempt fails, and Mike finds himself the suspect in a brutal murder.

Inspector Ramirez is the lead investigator for the case, and is convinced Ellis is guilty. The inspector receives help from some unexpected quarters (which I won't spoil by telling) and the plot is nicely paced with some twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

This is the first of...more
Lee-ann Sleegers
The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair from Penguin Canada 2012

I was completely drawn into this book, a phenomenal piece of Canadian fiction. Mrs Blair does a fantastic job of developing the setting both in Havana Cuba and the secondary location of Ottawa. As you read the description you can visualize all aspects of Old Havana and almost taste the Christmas dinner at Inspector Ramirez home.

Mrs. Blair doesn't stop with the setting, but develops all of her characters whether major or minor. I was able...more
The Beggar's Opera was difficult for me to get through, not because of the writing but because of the tough subject matter. Peggy Blair writes an illuminating book on what it means to be imprisoned in a Cuban jail and on the other hand a detective in Cuba, since the book is told from both Dectective Ramirez and Senior Ellis's perspective. I can't say that I would ever want to travel to Cuba now after reading the book, but it did give me a better perspective of the kinds of things Cubans have to...more
Carolyn Bitetti
A first in mystery series featuring Dr. Inspector Ricardo Ramirez - head of the Havana Major Crimes Unit. Dr. Ramirez sees the ghosts of the victims of the crimes he investigates; a gift handed down to him by his deceased grandmother. The plot is great, the setting in Havana is extremely well described and Ramirez is a wonderful character. If you enjoy mysteries and are ready for a new geographical setting, you'll surely enjoy this one!
Great detective story which takes place in modern day Cuba, so in effect a country without the infrastructure and usual CSI stuff we in the rest of the western world have access to. It involves a Canadian tourist accused of the murder of a street urchin, the Canadian Lawyer who flies in from Ottawa to try to help him out in Havana and who works in tandem with the local Cuban detective who has to suss out her intentions while trying to gather enough evidence to secure a conviction within a short...more
I almost gave up on this novel. Not until well into it’s second half does the pacing and suspense improve. This is where the author uses some very clever plot twists and manipulates her unique characters into a thrill-packed conclusion. I found the first half of the story saturated with political commentary. It whined and dragged through the shortfalls of Castro’s Cuba. The crime couldn't be solved due to a lack of resources. How could the police make any progress while lacking pencils, batterie...more
A nice discovery for me (I think I have Library Journal to thank for this). This beginning of a new mystery series introduces Inspector Ricardo Ramirez and is set in Havana. The city is as much as character as any of the people, and the author doesn't shy away from some of the grittier truths of life in Cuba under Castro and the embargo. I look forward to reading more titles in this series.
Nancy McFarlane
The Beggar’s Opera introduces us to a once beautiful but crumbling Havana and a cast of wonderful characters, including the sensitive and cunning Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, and medical investigator Hector Apiro. The stark picture of life in modern day Cuba adds atmosphere and interest to the complex criminal investigation of the mystery – the rape and death of an 8 year old boy. It is a totally captivating debut to a mystery series with unforgettable setting and characters.

One of the best new s...more
Jun 25, 2013 Linda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I almost put this one down after a few pages. I'm really glad I decided to give it a second chance before I went on to something else! I was bothered by the premise of the detective dying of dementia that caused him to be accomapnied by the ghosts of crime victims, but that turned out to be an enrichment, not a distraction.

The setting in Havana is very interesting. Since Americans can't travel to Cuba, it seems that it is not used as a setting very often. Blair, a Canadian, has traveled there, a...more
Roma Del
Excellent book. A real page turner. There were many surprises in the story and very different characetrs
Linda Boldt
This is a detective story like many others except it takes place in modern Cuba and the ghost of the victim accompanies the detective as he searches for the murderer. Very enjoyable!
Jul 14, 2013 Val rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: mystery
This was an educational glimpse at life in Cuba, one that American's don't get a chance to experience but Canadians do. This first book in a series features inspector Ramirez, who is able to see dead people. He thinks that is a manifestation of a fatal disease, which also killed his grandma so he believes he only has a short time left to live. This mystery involves a visiting Canadian detective who is accused of raping a small boy who is found in water by fisherman. This is intense at times but...more
Mike Ellis, a Canadian cop, is visiting beautiful, crumbling Havana with his wife. They are trying to re-kindle their dead marriage. Inspector Ricardo Ramirez is head of the Major Crime Unit. On Christmas Day, he is called out to the scene of a horrible crime, a young boy has been brutalized and murdered and his body dropped in the ocean. Evidence is found in Ellis' hotel room and he is arrested. Mike's Chief sends Celia Jones to Cuba to investigate alongside Ramirez. What unfolds is a tale of c...more
Diana Otteson
Really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next in the series.
I really liked this book! I used to be married to a Cuban, I was in Cuba many times and I felt like the book depicted the life in Cuba quite accurately. I finished the Beggar's Opera in 2 days (I actually was reading another book at that time and I wanted to just take a peek to see what this book was about. ) I could not stop reading it and had to finish it before I went back to my other book :) I needed to find out "who did it" but also wanted to follow the stories of the book's many interestin...more
A new Canadian mystery writer has come on the scene to share some of the limelight with Louise Penny. Blair has. written a fast pace murder mystery about a Canadian abandoned by his wife in the middle of their Christmas vacation in Cuba. It seems the marriage has been crumbling for years culminating in the split. The Canadian turns out to also be an Ottawa policeman. Our hero gets blind drunk one night and wakes up on Christmas Day to a big headache and the death of a boy Cuban police want to qu...more
This novel has enough twists and turns that I read it in less than three days. I read it on breaks, and before bed, when I should have been sleeping!
I had heard conditions in Cuba were poor, but did not realize JUST how poor. Through an incredible murder investigation, Peggy Blair deftly describes Cuba's political standing, the people's desparate living situations and strange police procedural. This also helps me with my UN Challenge. I really really enjoyed this book. Recommend!! I will be read...more
Blair has a great deal of sympathy for Cubans living through the end of Castro's regime, but that does not mean that conditions are not extremely dangerous for Canadians to venture onto an island where poverty leads to unfathomable corruption and violence is a way of life. There are a number of turns towards the end, some of which are guessable, but that does not diminish Blair's accomplishment of keeping the sinister Catholic world of Graham Greene alive. I particularly liked the explanation of...more
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Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. A recognized expert in Aboriginal law, she worked as both a criminal defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor. She spent a Christmas in Old Havana, where she watched the bored, young policemen on street corners along the Malecón, visited Hemingway's favourite bars, and learned to make the perfect mojito.A former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tr...more
More about Peggy Blair...
The Poisoned Pawn Midnight in Havana Schaduwzijde

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