The Beggar's Opera

Paperback | February 7, 2012

byPeggy Blair

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In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez also has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders. As he races against time, the dead haunt his every step …

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From the Publisher

In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major...

Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. Her critically  acclaimed mystery The Beggar’s Opera won the 2012 Scotiabank  Giller Prize Readers’ Choice contest and was shortlisted for the  Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award. The Poisoned Pawn  is the second in the Inspector Ramirez series. Peggy lives in Otta...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.98 × 6.16 × 0.93 inPublished:February 7, 2012Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143179977

ISBN - 13:9780143179979

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Customer Reviews of The Beggar's Opera

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read My first introduction to Peggy Blair it made me a true fan.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I became a Peggy Blair fan after reading this and continued to her read her other books.
Date published: 2016-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Beggar's Opera Interesting and little known locale, with good character development and plot twists! I look forward to more in this series.
Date published: 2013-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read! A unique insight into a murder mystery set in old Havana. I loved the details about crumbling buildings and the way of life under Castro's rule. Inspector Ramirez is tasked with solving a gruesome rape and murder of a young beggar, Arturo. Michael Ellis, a Canadian police officer, has been charged due to overwhelming physical evidence found in his room. However, he can't remember anything as he was drugged. Enter Celia Jones, the heroine, of the story. Celia works tirelessly to dismiss the charges against Ellis and uncovers more than what she bargained for. Can Celia bring the real murderer to justice and save Ellis from the death penalty?
Date published: 2013-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best.... This is one of the best mysteries I have read in a long time. The story was very fast paced and had great tension because the accused has only a few days to prove he is innocent of a horrible crime when all the evidence seems to point at him. It is questionable if he will survive to a trial if he is put in a cuban jail. The setting, in Cuba, with a quirky chief detective and head coroner, add to the appeal of the story. Tge detective things he is dying and is haunted by ghosts of his victims. Or, is he losing his mind as a result of his illness? The investigators have to conduct their investigations with shortages of supplies including gasoline for their vehicles. But what impressed me the most was how successfully the author wove several stories together and then sewed up all the ends together so well. Sadly the story involved pedophilia. However, it was a book I couldn't put down.
Date published: 2012-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Whirlwind crime novel set in Old Havana! Set in Old Havana, The Beggar's Opera follows several main characters as they race against time to solve a brutal assault & murder of a young boy. It's Christmas morning when the boy is found in the water, and Inspector Ramirez is heading up the investigation. Ramirez races against the clock to secure an indictment, all while he believes himself to be suffering from the same disease that his grandmother had - seeing the ghosts of unsolved crimes. What a whirlwind of a crime novel! I was immediately caught up in the story from the beginning, with Blair's depictions of the Havana city and way of life absolutely engaging. The writing is full of detail and research, but not over-done as to make the reader feel lost or overwhelmed with law jargon or Cuban slang. The descriptions of Havana hotspots and landmarks paint a vivid picture of the setting to this mystery. One thing that I picked up on throughout the book, which really had no relevance to the story, was the constant mention of things being Chinese. Chinese tape recorders, Chinese table tennis, Chinese bicycles... I didn't understand why, and it really started to bug me. I think I ended up noting at least 6 instances of this, thinking that China was somehow going to make its way into this story about Canada/Cuba but to no avail. [Edit: Peggy explained that it was interesting to see how reliant Cuba was on China for so many things because of the embargo. However, maybe a small precursor would be helpful for those who don't know much about Cuba or the embargo. Learn something new every day! :)] That factor aside, I loved Blair's storytelling and story-weaving in this debut novel. The Beggar's Opera keeps you wondering and guessing right to the end with the twists and revelations. As it's narrated by the several main characters, you get to learn new evidence and information as they learn it. The pacing is fantastic and all the breadcrumb clues that are laid out in strategic detail along the way make for a satisfying payoff. This and other reviews can be found on my blog JustaLilLost.com
Date published: 2012-02-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great new series Peggy Blair worked as a Canadian lawyer for over thirty years, on both sides of the fence - defense and prosecution. A Christmas vacation in Havana, Cuba one year "where she watched the bored, young policemen on street corners along the Malecon, visited Hemingway's favourite bars, and learned to make a perfect mojito" provided some great inspiration for her debut fiction novel - The Beggar's Opera. 2006. Michael Ellis, a Canadian police detective from Ottawa and his wife Hillary head to Cuba for some warm weather over the Christmas vacation. Mike is also suffering some fallout from the death of his partner. There seems to be more to this story than we are intially led to believe. Their marriage suffers a blow when Hillary cuts her time short and heads back to Canada. Mike decides to drown his sorrows in one of Hemingway's favorite bars. But when he wakes up the next day, he can't find his wallet, has no idea what he did the night before.....and finds himself being arrested for the rape and murder of a young street boy. He remembers giving the begging child some pesos the day before - but murder.... Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Havana Major Crimes Unit has 72 hours to secure an indictment. He'll be moving fast on this horrific crime. And the possible sentence? The firing squad is still in use in Cuba. Mike's commander at home sends a female lawyer, Celia Jones, to Cuba to see if she can help Mike in any way. The Beggar's Opera was such a great read on so many different levels. The setting itself was a major character. Blair brings to life a Cuba outside the confines of a tourist resort. A Cuba where "anything could be a crime if it served the government's objectives." Unauthorized internet access = a five year prison sentence. Renting a room to a tourist, insulting Castro, possessing tourist pesos and much, much more. Where bribery and corruption are rampant. A Cuba where the legal system is completely foreign to our Canadian sensibilities and weighs heavily in favour of the police. I think the most stunning example is the 'pre-dangerous' charge."The police could arrest almost anyone, even someone the merely considered 'likely' to be dangerous in the future." A Cuba where the poorest have access to a high degree of eduation, but children run hungry in the streets. Where soap and pencils are great treasures. I found myself running to the computer many times to follow up on a detail that Blair included. (Yes, Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Fidel Castro did open Terminal Three of the international airport in Cuba) But the star of the show is Inspector Ramirez. He is a dedicated policeman and honest (but not above sampling the rum from the evidence locker) Ghosts of murder victims have recently begun following Ramirez. As a small boy, his dying grandmother promised that "The dead will come. My gift to you, as the eldest child." His friend and the local coroner, Dr. Hector Apiro says it may be a form of progressive dementia. Dr. Apiro actually runs a very close second for character I most enjoyed. Blair has conceived an intricate, multi layered plot that kept me guessing until the very end. I was captivated by both the main story, and the players and their lives. I'm eager to read the second in this series. It looks like Ramirez may be coming to Canada to assist on a case. The title? The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera and Ramirez's favourite. "An opera about political corruption, with a lively case that included well-bred whores with impeccable manners, men disguised as women, beggars, even prisoners. It was a story of poisoned chalices, violence, and revenge; false charges, even a threatened execution. But it was also about love and loyalty and above all, friendship." And it's also a pretty apt description of Blair's book. Definitely recommended.
Date published: 2012-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Race Against Time in Old Havana Inspector Ricardo Ramirez can’t shake the ghosts which tormented his dead grandmother. They follow him everywhere, sending mute messages from beyond the grave. How can he tell his wife and children that he suffers from the same rising dementia? “That policeman should be more careful where he stands,” Ramirez said to the dead woman sitting at the medical examiner Apiro’s desk….She wore a frilly southern-belle dress and a wide white bandana….The several strands of beads around her neck revealed who she was –or rather had been—a follower of Santeria.” As a nation waits for a new era at the end of the punishing embargo, citizens walk a narrow line on ten pesos a month. The tourist hotels and destinations are off limits to Cubans unless they work there. Soap is impossible to buy, and coffee comes with sugar only. To manage to find a chicken for the Christmas holidays is a triumph. Suddenly Ramirez’s holiday goes on hold. Major Crimes has just picked up a vacationing Canadian lawman for the rape and murder of a young Cuban boy. Mike Ellis gave the kid spare change earlier. But he has no memory of the evening. His quarreling wife left him to return to Canada, and he was alone in a bar, drowning his sorrows in too much rum, wandering from the safe tourist paths into the dangerous back alleys of a raw but tempting world. Forensics from his hotel room look bleak for his case. Unless he can find an advocate, he’ll soon be in jail at the mercy of hardened criminals who would welcome the chance to teach a lesson to someone on the other side of the law. Canadians find Cuba a popular winter destination, but the pleasures of mojitos and white sands mask danger for thrill-seekers. The price is high for Cubans who would break the rules for a few US dollars: the forbidden Internet, closed doors, and a brush with the netherworld. To bribe or not to bribe? It may be the only chance, especially for an innocent. Under the Cuban system, an indictment must come before seventy-two hours have elapsed. So everyone’s under the gun. Help from Canada may be too little too late. Ellis has a high profile, but the beleaguered country is out to show the world that it isn’t a mecca for sex tourism. Justice will be swift, but will it punish the right man? Does Ellis, disfigured and wounded from a previous tragic case, have an additional secret or does a monster walk unchallenged through the dark streets of the once exotic city? The horror may twist far into the past. Talented lawyer turned author Peggy Blair places herself in the forefront of crime fiction with this stellar entry, which came close to snagging the Debut Dagger in Harrowgate. Her characters move with the surety of canny locals or the naiveté of a visitor. The plot advances with the ticking of the clock and the scenes shift seamlessly while maintaining maximum suspense. Whether strolling the crumbling streets of one of the world’s most enigmatical cities or moving into the dangerous countryside, the way is smooth and sure. Grabbing life by the throat, the characters are as full-bodied as Cuban coffee and as beguiling as confiscated anejo rum. In the background, along with the ancient African gods that still colour the imagination of this cultural melting pot, is the shadowy figure of Fidel Castro, amid a thousand jokes, orchestrating for the eventual re-entry of his fabled country into the challenges of the 21st century.
Date published: 2011-12-18

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Editorial Reviews

I have a penchant for smart, dark, literary crime fiction, and The Beggar's Opera is all of that: an excellent book. - Allan Guthrie, author of Two Way Split