37) Havana Gold by Leonardo Padura.
An obvious choice for me, really: we’ve just been to Cuba and I love a detective novel. So I had high hopes or this – and, as often seems the case, high hopes are followed by lower excitement…
In glimpses, this was great: sultry jazz, sexy characters, and smoky food and atmosphere definitely reminded me of some of the backstreets of Havana when we were there – and you got a sense of the city behind what the tourists see.
But this is a detective novel and the detection part wasn’t that great: not that interesting, not very well plotted and the momentum didn’t really build throughout. It felt very episodic, which meant I dipped in and out, rather than being gripped by what was happening or by developments.
There are also some really bizarre authorial flights of fancy: incredibly wordy descriptions of light or sound or music or some other thing, which I found difficult to reconcile with our protagonist, Mario Conde. It all felt a bit jarring – might have been the translation, but it read more like a writer just trying to do too much and move beyond where the story and characters should be.
All in all, a bit of a let-down, unless you’re only after a book with a sultry feel. In which case, knock yourself out.