Hello Readers! I’m excited to share excerpt of Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage, as part of blog tour organized by Rachel’s Random Resources. Check out more about this mystery novel in this post.
Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage (Havana Mystery Series #2)
Publication Date: November 2019
Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita.
Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer.
Elsa (Juan’s girlfriend in Cuba and his true love) married Emilio Savarria, a much older Spaniard, after Juan left the island. She travels often to Spain and the United States, where her son, Emilito, is currently studying. Now she’s back at her house in Havana, reminiscing about her life.
Elsa Dieguez was looking for Emilio’s ring when she found the gun.
She had just finished putting together a care package for her son, who, when she had visited him in Cambridge three days earlier, had requested five cans of Cafe Cubita. Cafe Cubita, of all things! When he could buy Bustelo or La Llave or one of the many kinds of espresso available in the United States! But no. It had to be Cuban. The American brands didn’t taste as good, Emilito claimed. What was he, spoiled? He had also asked for a white guayabera, a framed picture of his favorite baseball team, Industriales, to hang in his dorm room and his father’s old brass ring, which he thought was “cool.” The package was on the dresser, ready to be sent. Elsa planned to ask a friend who worked at the Spanish embassy to mail it when he left for Madrid in a week. She didn’t trust the Cuban postal service.
While looking for her husband’s ring, Elsa had come across the gun that Emilio had bought in Spain, back when he was still living most of each year in Havana. The weapon was small and sleek—a Kahr CW9, with a silencer and everything. He had insisted on buying it for “security reasons,” while Elsa had privately laughed at him. He didn’t even know how to load a gun, much less shoot one. But she did.
She remembered her father coming home drunk and firing shots into the ceiling, threatening his wife. He could really be a violent bastard at times. A veteran of the Angolan war, he’d taught Elsa how to handle not just a gun but a military-grade Russian AKM. “Don’t let anyone mess with you, mijita,” he’d told her. “Make them respect you, or else.” Respect was important to him. He was also fond of repeating one of Fidel’s most famous phrases, which had appeared for many years on the country’s murals and billboards: “Every Cuban should know how to shoot, and shoot well.” Elsa thought that in that sense at least, El Comandante would have been proud of her. Her father certainly was, at least now.
Despite his outbursts, she had been closer to him that to her mother, Silvana, a subdued housewife unable to control her rebellious daughter or stand up to her husband. When Elsa saw him hit her mother, she vowed to never let a man to do the same to her. On occasion, Elsa’s father would try to hit her too, but unlike her mother, she fought back every time. He seemed impressed by this and stopped when she defended herself. It was all part of teaching her how to earn respect, she later understood.
She had resolved early on that if a single beating happened when she got married, she wouldn’t be the one on the receiving end. She identified with her father, the one in charge, not that sad weakling that was her mother. But she still resented domineering men. She had been drawn to Juan because he was an artist, a gentle musician who spoke in soothing tones. Her father had preferred she dated military types like himself, or at least committed revolutionaries. In the end, she had married a man who, for his age and temperament, wasn’t too different from el pincho. Fortunately, she had already known how to handle him.
And her father had accepted Savarria. The Spaniard was a necessary evil, like the swanky hotels for foreigners, the casas particulares and the CUC shops. Like him and his wife settling in the United States, the hated “cradle of imperialism,” because life in Cuba didn’t show signs of improvement. Emilio had helped set them up there, but the former pincho hadn’t severed ties with his country. He had become the president of an Amistad con Cuba group in Los Angeles and avoided Miami like the plague.
Elsa smiled at the memories. She would have to visit her parents next time she traveled to the United States. Then she returned her attention to the gun. She didn’t want the woman who cleaned the house every week to see it. She took it to the half bathroom off the master bedroom and hid it in the linen closet, under the fancy lacy lingerie she hadn’t worn in years.
Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has published ten novels and three collections of short stories.
Her first culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018) is set in Havana and features Padrino, a santero-detective. It is loaded with authentic Cuban recipes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldosa (a yummy stew). Her second mystery, Queen of Bones, was also published by Soho Crime in November 2019 and includes elements of Santería and, again, food—clearly, the author loves to eat! Both novels are rich in details about life in the island, the kind only an insider can provide.
They are the first two books of Soho Crime’s Havana Mystery series. Upcoming are Death of a Telenovela Star (June 2020) and Death under the Perseids.
She also wrote A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010).
In her native Spanish she has authored six novels, among them Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain) and El difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, which won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009).
Once in a while she delves into theater. Her plays La Hija de La Llorona and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (published in Teatro Latino, 2019) has been staged by Aguijón Theater in Chicago.
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