Set between Cubas twenty years apart, Havana native Teresa Dovalpage’s new murder mystery explores lingering grudges between old friends and lovers separated by Castro's final sanctioned raft exodus.
Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita.
Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer.
Cuba's distinctive culture and cuisine again serve as the backdrop for Dovalpage's enticing second Havana mystery (after 2018's Death Comes in Through the Kitchen). Twenty years after Cuban Juan Chiong barely survived a raft trip to Miami, Fla., his life has certainly improved: he has a stable, well-paying job as a contractor in New Mexico and is married to wealthy real estate agent Sharon. Juan now plans to return to Havana, though Sharon senses he'd rather do so alone. Concerned about Cuba's political instability and her husband's vague plans, Sharon accompanies him to the island nation. Juan, who's determined to find his lost love, Elsa, is oblivious to the danger of delving into the past that still haunts him. Even after a childhood friend's murder, he continues to dig, putting everyone around him at risk. Dovalpage skillfully evokes the lights and shadows of life in Cuba as the forlorn, reckless Juan contends with the women who try to control him. Vibrant supporting characters such as Padrino, a Santer a priest, and Lt. Marlene Mart nez, a police detective, lend color. This moving tale of love, loss, greed, and betrayal will also appeal to non-mystery readers.