IN THROUGH THE KITCHEN
Publisher: Soho Crime (March, 2018)
A Cuban mystery (Book 1) – aka: A Havana Mystery
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Journalist Matt Sullivan arrived in Havana with two suitcases full of kitchen equipment, a size five engagement ring, and a wedding dress. His long-distance girlfriend Yarmila hadn’t exactly said yes to his marriage proposal the last time they’d talked on the phone, but she hadn’t said no either, and he had high hopes. Back in San Diego he wrote a column on local restaurants and the San Diego food scene. He’d discovered her Cuban food blog, and over the course of a year they’d developed an intense online relationship. He’d spent a blissful ten days with her a few months before, and thought they were ready for the next step.
Yarmila had promised to meet him at the airport, but she was a no-show. He hitched a ride with his American traveling companion, Anne, and her Cuban boy toy/taxi driver/ black marketeer friend Yony. Yarmila didn’t answer the door. He and her nosy neighbor found out why when they found her body in the bathtub. She’d been dead for several hours.
It was 2003, but Havana was still stuck in the 1950’s. Fidel Castro had grown old, and the rigid Communism of previous decades had lightened up just a bit. Americans were still reviled though, and Matt was at the top of the suspect list. He was cleared of the murder charge, but the cops still suspected him of something… of being a CIA agent. They kept his passport while they tried to figure out just what he was guilty of.
Matt decided to use his forced Cuban stay to solve his sweetheart’s murder. Help came from some unexpected sources: a young transvestite, a retired police detective turned Santeria priest, and a sympathetic policewoman, among others. Evidence mounts that his beloved was not at all who he thought she was, leaving him heartbroken and a bit relieved that the marriage didn’t happen.
Ms. Dovalpage was born in Cuba and knows the culture and history well. Havana is a major character. Decades-old American cars still rule the streets, spewing exhaust that blackens the aging architecture. Crumbling colonial buildings stand shoulder to shoulder with shoddy Soviet construction.
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