I am happy to take part in this Penguin Blog Tour for The Poisoned Pawn. My friend Sarah Atchison first introduced me to Peggy Blair’s work when she chose The Beggar’s Opera for our book club in the fall. The women in our club loved it. We were thrilled when Peggy was available to join us one Sunday evening to discuss the book and her writing process. Imagine our excitement when she revealed that the second book in the series would be available in a few months, after which she promptly invited us to the book launch! Talk about keeping in touch with your audience.
For those of you who have not yet read The Beggar’s Opera, check out the book trailer here:
Crime. Corruption. Intrigue.
The Poisoned Pawn is the second book in the Inspector Ramirez Series. The book picks up exactly where The Beggar’s Opera left off. Hillary Ellis is returning to Canada following her “vacation” in Cuba where she and her husband parted ways. She dies on the plane. This doesn’t look good for Mike Ellis who had motive to kill her. Inspector Ramirez is also headed to Ottawa after he is tasked by the Minister of the Interior in his native Cuba with aiding in returning a priest to Cuba who was stopped in the Ottawa airport with inappropriate materials on his laptop.
After Inspector Ramirez’s arrival in Ottawa, things start falling apart – both in Canada and in Cuba. In Canada, we have the mother of Hillary Ellis who has gone to the media to announce that Mike Ellis murdered her daughter. Meanwhile, in Cuba, two women have died as a result of a mysterious toxin. Is this linked to Hillary Ellis’ death? Medical Examiner Hector Apiro must uncover the mystery on his own while Inspector Ramirez is in Canada worrying about his family’s health and a possible travel advisory to Cuba that could be extremely detrimental to his home country’s economy. Meanwhile, newly promoted Detective Espinoza is tackling the investigation of a local woman’s murder.
Peggy Blair moves us through an intricate chess game as the multi-layered plot unfolds. We follow the events in Canada and Cuba seamlessly. Her crime novels are intelligently and carefully crafted to the smallest detail with fun clues along the way. It is hard for the reader to see the big picture until the end – where the reader finds out how closely-related the various mysteries are.
Blair’s characters are unique and human. From Inspector Ramirez’s love for his family, to his guilty Catholic conscience for taking money from the evidence room to the interesting romance between Apiro and Maria Vasquez, and of course the troubled Mike Ellis. These characters are not one dimensional in the least and it’s easy for the reader to become emotionally invested in them. Throughout the book, Inspector Ramirez continues to be visited by “ghosts” who help him solve the multiple mysteries. Is there a medical reason for these ghosts or are they explained by the Cuban culture of multiple gods and apparitions? These ghosts are interesting characters in themselves. Although I wasn’t a big fan of Inspector Ramirez’s “affliction” in The Beggar’s Opera, I was able to better appreciate the ghosts in this book and the purpose they fulfilled in Blair’s storytelling.
I love the way Cuba is depicted as both a place of suffering and one showcasing the vibrancy of life. In fact, Ottawa as a setting in comparison is quite dull. Blair’s background as a realtor comes in handy though as she takes us through some of Ottawa’s popular neighbourhoods. In one scene, Inspector Ramirez reflects on the brown and grey buildings that make up the landscape in Ottawa and makes note of the fact that some of the glass-fronted buildings simply reflect the brown and grey back at you. He longs for the colours in Cuba. Blair’s illustration of Canada becomes more interesting when we move from specifically Ottawa as a bureaucratic city to Canadian culture as a whole and particularly when detailing Aboriginal culture. The contrasts and similarities between Canada and Cuba in setting and culture are interesting and something for the reader to think about.
I loved the book. I think that this would definitely be described as a page-turner. All you have to do to get hooked is open the book and start reading. My complaints would be the following: at times I felt that there was more description than necessary. I also felt that the introduction of Charlie Pike as an Aboriginal could have been more natural.
I feel that this book picked up successfully from the first but could also stand alone as a novel. I would highly recommend it.
Note: I did not receive a free copy of this book from Penguin. I bought both The Beggar’s Opera and The Poisoned Pawn and would gladly recommend these purchases.
1 copy of the new edition of The Beggar’s Opera & 1 copy of The Poisoned Pawn (Canada only). Leave a comment below to be entered. I will be giving them away as a set. Deadline is March 23!
Peggy can be found @peggy_blair
For book news and information, check out @PenguinCanada
Here’s the schedule from our Blog Tour if you’d like to read other reviews:
Feb 25 The Literary Word www.theliteraryword.blogspot.com
Feb 26 Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea www.goodbooksandacupoftea.blogspot.com
Feb 28 Just a Lil Lost www.justalillost.com
March 4 A Bookworm’s World www.luanne-abookwormsworld.blogspot.com
March 5 Serendipitous Readings www.serendipitous-readings.com
March 6 Literary Treats www.literarytreats.wordpress.com
March 7 Thrifty Momma’s Brainfood www.thriftymommasbrainfood.blogspot.com