Leonardo Padura – Havana Gold (Original title Vientos de Cuaresma)


This is one of my contributions to the 2010 Global Reading Challenge (North America).

Padura, L. Vientos de Cuaresma (2001). Tusquets Editores. Barcelona. 3ª edición: febrero de 2009. p. 232. ISBN: 978-84-8383-148-9.

Havana Gold (aka Havana Yellow) original title Vientos de Cuaresma literally means Winds of Lent. It was the fourth volume published in Spain and it was also the fourth translated into English, but it was actually the second in Padura’s Havana Quartet, all featuring detective Inspector Mario Conde. The order is meaningful because the quartet is set in each of the four seasons of 1989. It is of interest to note that the Spanish copyright is dated 2001 because the first Cuban edition (1994) was published outside recognized literary channels.

Havana Gold opens when detective Inspector Mario Conde, after a chance encounter, falls in love with Karina, a beautiful red haired woman. Back at work “El Conde” is assigned to investigate the murder of Lisette Nuñez Delgado, a twenty four year old high school teacher. She was beaten, raped and strangled with a towel in her apartment. Remains of marijuana were found in her apartment and her wardrobe was suspiciously beyond her means. Under pressure Mario Conde must find her killer while trying to discover the mysterious identity of his new love interest.

The plot or I should say the two plots of the book are less important. The real interest of the book is focused on its main character Mario Conde, el Conde, a sceptical detective and a sad man overwhelmed by his obsessions. In his company we visit the streets of Havana 1989 and we find real people, colours, smells and tastes. The book makes me wanted to return to Havana. We knew about his memories and his dreams: a child who wanted to become a writer like Hemingway. There are also some explicit sex scenes, but that is life and the book is also full of life, friendship and many other things. I will certainly look to read the rest of the series and just wonder why it took me so long to discover this books and this writer.

Leonardo Padura Fuentes was born in Havana in 1955. He is a novelist, essayist, journalist and scriptwriter. He studied in Havana and remained in Cuba throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, when Russian aid disappeared and the country went through an economic crisis. Padura gained international recognition with Havana Quartet, featuring detective Inspector Mario Conde. Padura has won numerous awards, including the Spanish award for detective fiction, the Premio Hammett. He still lives in Havana, in the barrio where he grew up, with his wife, the journalist Lucia Lopez Coll.

Inspector Mario Conde series include:
Pasado perfecto (1991). Havana Blue (2007)
Vientos de cuaresma (1994). Havana Gold (2008)
Mascaras (1997). Havana Red (2005)
Paisaje de otoño (1998). Havana Black (2006)

Padura has published two subsequent books featuring Conde, Adios Hemingway (2005, novella) that was his first book published in English with the same title in 2006 and La neblina del ayer (2002-03), Havana Fever (2009).

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6 thoughts on “Leonardo Padura – Havana Gold (Original title Vientos de Cuaresma)

  1. >Really comprehensive review Ignacio. I must confess I had not heard this author´s name before.Yo este año me he apuntado al Canadian Book Challenge y el próximo año si saco tiempo me encantaría apuntarme al Global Reading Challenge que suena fascinante.Un saludo y a seguir disfrutando de la lectura.

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