Havana Black : A Mario Conde Mystery, Paperback

Havana Black : A Mario Conde Mystery Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A brutally mutilated body is discovered washed up in the bay of Havana.

The body of Miguel Forcade Mier, head smashed in by a baseball bat, genitals cut off by a dull knife.

Forcade, once an official in the Cuban government responsible for the confiscation of the belongings of the bourgeoisie fleeing the revolution, was an exile in Miami.

Had he really returned to Havana just to visit his ailing father?

Conde immerses himself in the dark history of expropriations of works of art, paintings that have vanished without trace, corrupt civil servants and old families that lost much, but not everything.

Here is the disillusion of Padura's generation, many of them veterans of the war in Angola, dealing with the catastrophe that followed the collapse of Russian aide in the 1990's and now discovering the corruption of those that preceded them.

Yet a eulogy of Cuba, its life of music, sex and the great friendships of those who elected to stay and fight for survival.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 286 pages, black & white illustrations
  • Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781904738152



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Review by

Lt. Mario Conde is attempting to leave the police force at the same time he is solving the murder of an exile who has returned to Cuba to retrieve something of value. Hurricane Felix is bearing down on the island. Conde and his close friends are questioning their lack of control over their own lives and are exploring their own opportunities for escape. The effects of loss and corruption permeate the story and the lives of the characters.

Review by

When the news comes through that his chief for the last eight years, Major Antonio Rangel, is to be replaced, as a result of investigations that require a scapegoat, Detective Lieutenant Mario Conde (the Count), a few days short of his 36th birthday, requests a discharge, and goes home to drown his sorrows in a bottle.Havana is lying in wait for Hurricane Felix. Conde has been watching it's progress, convinced that despite it's meanderings Havana is the hurricane's target. Conde's new boss sends Sergeant Manuel Palacios to his home to bring him in. He has a proposition for him. Conde is being offered one last job, and then he will be allowed to leave smelling of roses. The new boss Colonel Molina is an officer from Military Intelligence and he knows little about police work but he knows he needs Conde to deal with the hot potato that has just arrived.A man's corpse has been found. A Cuban with US citizenship who'd come to see his dying father. He'd been thrown into the sea after being battered by a baseball bat. His penis and testicles had been cut off after death with a blunt knife. In the 1960s he had been the deputy head of the Provincial Office for Expropriated Porperty, and in 1978 as national deputy director for Planning and the Economy he had made a trip to the Soviet Union, stopped off in Madrid on the way back, and defected to the USA. Since then he'd been living in Florida. So the big question was: why had he come back to Cuba?Conde agrees that he will take on the case, that he will solve it in 3 days, and in return he wants to be able to consult his former boss Rangel, and to get a letter of discharge.I didn't find HAVANA BLACK an easy read, possibly because it wasn't the first in the series and I wasn't already acquainted with Mario Conde. Initially I found the interchangeable use of Conde and Count confusing and thought there must be a second character. Then there were large sections of the book where I just wanted to get on with the story, and fast passage was halted by pages of unparagraphed text. There were long passages dredging up detail from Conde's past, descriptions of Havana, and Conde, who wants to be a writer in his next life, philosophising.I was impatient for the initial question to be solved. Why did the dead man return to Havana when he must have known that, although twenty years had passed since his defection, his life could be in danger?Well, we got there eventually and I breathed a sigh of relief. I read this as my 19th novel in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge, and yes I did learn something of life in Cuba.

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