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The Beggar's Opera (Inspector Ramírez #1)

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  569 Ratings  ·  153 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 Malecón. For Inspector Ricardo Ramírez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Rev ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Penguin Canada (first published 2012)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,360)
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Robert Intriago
Mar 10, 2014 Robert Intriago rated it really liked it
Shelves: p-i, 2014
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
Aug 30, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Inspector Ricardo Ramirez mystery and it begins with the death of his grandmother, when he is only nine years old. She passes to him, "my gift to you, as the eldest child." Her gift is the ability to see the dead and, indeed, as the Inspector in charge of the Havana Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, Ramirez is constantly followed by the victims of the crimes he is investigating. As well as the dead, Ramirez is aided by his subordinate, Detective Rodr ...more
*** 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
Apr 19, 2014 Dwayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 10, 2016 AdiTurbo rated it really liked it
It was a pleasure to learn so much about exotic Cuba, its people and ways of life. I didn't realize its law system was so different than that of Western democracies, and it was fascinating to read about how citizens and policemen live with it and find ways to circumvent and work with the problems. Living with all the shortages of things we see as essential doesn't seem to affect Cubans' capacity for happiness and conducting normal lives. I guess 'normal' is a matter of perspective, and so is 'es ...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
Iva Makitty
Aug 20, 2013 Iva Makitty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-shelf
Nothing will make you fall in love with old Havana more this book. From the pages of this book you can almost feel the heat of the sun, the breeze of the wind and that cool taste of mojito. If only to hide the secrets that the city holds, deep inside...deep inside each and every one of us there is a secret we will hold until escaping from it you just run right into it. Beautiful tale of crime, prejudice and a fight for survival.
Best thriller that I have read. Peggy Blair is a new name to watch out for. I can't wait for Peggy to write her next book. Mike a canadian police officer goes to crumbling Old Havana to help save his troubled marriage. A little Cuban boy begs them for a few Pesos. Mike gives the the little boy some Pesos, when the little boy hug's mike. Mike and his wife hillary have an argument. Hillary leaves Havana and mike decides to stay in Havana.
Inspector Ramirez finds a dead Cuban little boy in the ocean
Caroline Ingvaldsen
Apr 27, 2015 Caroline Ingvaldsen rated it really liked it
Strong police procedural set in contemporary Cuba starring the ingenious and insightful Inspector Ricardo Ramirez with an engaging supporting cast of colleagues and family.
Jan 18, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it
good murder mystery read - set in contemporary Havana. Not really my genre but having been to Havana I was interested in the setting.. would like to read more of this Canadian writer's books.
Aug 03, 2012 Krista rated it it was ok
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.
Wendy Hearder-moan
Jul 22, 2015 Wendy Hearder-moan rated it really liked it
I would have enjoyed this book even if Mike Ellis and Celia Jones had been English, or French or whatever, but the fact that they were Canadian added another layer of interest. Nevertheless, although the author and some of the characters are Canadian, it doesn't have that "atmosphere" that marks it as Canadian literature, and for that I am grateful. Must be the Cuban influence! I thoroughly recommend this series. The characters are engaging; the plot takes unexpected turns but hangs together wel ...more
Dec 02, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it
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
Apr 14, 2012 Kathryn rated it really liked it
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
Lou Allin
Dec 18, 2011 Lou Allin rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 29, 2012 Michele rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
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,
Mar 28, 2013 Larraine rated it really liked it
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
Dec 07, 2011 Anne Cobham rated it it was amazing
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
Marina Sofia
Nov 07, 2013 Marina Sofia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's Ian Rankin we have to thank for this intriguing debut by Canadian lawyer turned crime writer Peggy Blair. Released in North America under the title 'The Beggars' Opera', the book had been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger, so the author made the effort to go to Harrogate. Depressed by her failure to win, in the hotel bar in Harrogate she met Ian Rankin, who had just returned from a trip to Ottawa. A short chat later, she found herself with a recommendation for an agent and just a few weeks l ...more
Jun 12, 2014 Nadine rated it really liked it
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
Lee-Ann Sleegers
Jun 06, 2012 Lee-Ann Sleegers rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2013 Mjl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastically well-woven story. Several plot and subplot threads delicately and intelligently woven.

An eccentric cast: the "I see dead people..." inspector, the eager 2nd in command, the incredibly sharp dwarf coroner, the tragic foreigner caught in an unbelievable situation and the astute lawyer tasked with saving the day. All have back stories and secrets which are gradually revealed, providing us with layered, rich, human and often dark characters set against the destitute, corrupt, unjust a
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
Jan 23, 2014 Carolyn Bitetti rated it really liked it
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!
Sep 21, 2013 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, canadian
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
May 04, 2013 Patricia rated it liked it
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
Jun 02, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 30, 2015 Joanne rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The author's description of the stress and poverty of everyday life in Cuba was masterful. I loved her depiction of the uselessness of the Canadian Consul. It's a complaint made all too often by Canadians abroad. Anyway, the mystery was excellent and how about those major twists at the end? They just kept on coming right up to the last page.

This was a really promising book by a new author. I hope to read more.
Maggie Cats
Oct 29, 2014 Maggie Cats rated it liked it
Really interesting and twisty murder mystery set in Havanna, Cuba in 2006. I really enjoyed how all the characters felt real and I could never tell if I could trust that I liked all the characters--including the detective, suspect, and lawyer.

The most fascinating aspect of the novel was learning about the ins and outs of the Cuban police and legal system. Law & Order, it ain't. The first in a series, I will definitely try out some of the other novels!
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Ramírez (3 books)
  • The Poisoned Pawn (Inspector Ramírez, #2)
  • Hungry Ghosts (Inspector Ramírez, #3)

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