Let me start by telling you, lovely and intelligent reader, that you could win a copy of The Beggar’s Opera if you read to end of this post. Only open to Canadians. Now trust me when I tell you that you want to enter this one. The Beggar’s Opera is the best book I have read in a very long time. It gets my highest rating. So here is my review and an author interview with brilliant Peggy Blair, Canadian realtor, author and lawyer, new Twitter user and fabulous storyteller.
|Peggy Blair, picture by Alan Dean Photography|
The Beggar`s Opera is the book that will reawaken your passion for reading. Peggy Blair hooks the reader fast with a brilliant literary combination of savvy gothic characters, a three dimensional, stunning setting, a dark plot that is always hinting at something more and themes that are relevant and topical. This is a book that will speak to so many because of the author’s intuitive response to the world around her and the ways in which she uses her characters to maneuver through some of
the greatest contemporary issues we as a society face demographically and politically. The Beggar`s Opera begins with a flawed hero Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, who sees ghosts and rationalizes this as a hereditary illness called Lewy Body dementia, same illness that his grandmother suffered from, a particularly harsh dementia that manifests itself with Parkinson’s tremors and hallucinations. He is working on Christmas Day when a young boy, brutally sexually assaulted and murdered, begins to haunt him. The same young boy was seen begging on Christmas Eve when a Canadian detective named Mike Ellis was strolling by on vacation with his wife. Ellis becomes suspect number one and, a corrupt Cuban police force, charged with a mandate of holding someone accountable for the depravity, rushes to gather evidence that implicates the Canadian. Meanwhile, a smart Canadian lawyer married to a Cuban races to the rescue, but even she is not entirely convinced of Ellis’s innocence. The setting of The Beggar’s Opera is current Havana, a crumbling reminder of a regime and time when Cuba was, at least superficially, a star, on the world stage.
Blair’s research is stunning and she creates a remarkable atmosphere that is perfect for the story. Her Cuba is an ideal stage for the hints of magic realism that are sprinkled throughout the book. I am not sure what startles me more about The Beggar’s Opera, the fact that I was so disenchanted with the books I had been reviewing up until it arrived, or the fact that it might not have been published at all if not for a strange bit of luck and Scottish author Ian Rankin. Interestingly, this amazing author was discovered while at a crime writing conference in the U.K. After asking the author Ian Rankin for a photograph, she struck up a conversation and he provided a referral of sorts to an agent. Blair was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award 2010. This is intended to be the first in a series of novels featuring Inspector Ramirez.
With The Beggar’s Opera, Peggy Blair has established herself as a remarkable and talented storyteller. I can’t wait for more.
The Beggar’s Opera, by Peggy Blair, was published this month by Penguin Canada. It is 352 pages and $24.95.
This one gets $$$$$ out of $$$$$. Suspense doled out with perfect pace and a wonderful new main character. A joy to read, I never wanted The Beggar’s Opera to end.
The Beggar’s Opera Interview:
Q1. WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO WRITE?
Peggy Blair: I wouldn’t say I’m inspired — more driven! Writing doesn’t come easily to me; it’s hard work. So it’s hard to speak of inspiration. But I must say that Ramirez and his pal Apiro came to me fully-fledged; I knew what they would be like instantly, as if they were out there in the ether, waiting for someone to tell their story, and then found me. Like Ramirez and his ghosts, I’m not sure if that’s a gift or a curse.
Q2. WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS/ When do you write? WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE?
Peggy Blair: I don’t have any particular habits. I’m one of those people who does everything the moment I find out I have to, so I pay my bills the day they arrive, like to finish things well before deadline, and show up early for appointments. In the publishing business, I have discovered that this is an asset. I don’t like the idea of a book waiting for me to get working on it (sometimes I have this idea of the characters sitting around, stuck, talking to each other about how that idiot author can’t give them something to do and how boring it is without a plot). Once I have the idea, I stay with it until it’s done. The second in the series, The King’s Indian, is already written and has been sent back to me with editorial comments; my third book, Hungry Ghosts, is out with external readers now.
So the answer to your second question is that I fit in writing into my schedule like all the other demands on my time.
Q3. THE BEGGAR’S OPERA CONTAINS INTERESTING THEMSE ABOUT DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS AND EVEN POSSIBLE MENTAL ILLNESS – IS THIS PURE RESEARCH OR IS THERE A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE THAT MADE THIS RELEVANT TO YOU AS A WRITER?
Peggy Blair: I think as we boomers age, we all have to be conscious of the fact that this disease is becoming more prevalent, whatever its cause. I’m in my mid-50s. As a realtor who works a lot with people who are downsizing, I am already running into clients who are coping with this illness.
Q4. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR? WHO ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
Peggy Blair: I have a number of “favourite” authors. I devour everything by Carol O’Connoll who also writes quirky little mysteries. I loved James Lee Burke’s last novel, The Rain Gods. And I adore Martin Cruz Smith. I can easily read a book a night.
Q5. WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING?
Peggy Blair: Nothing! I’m not a morning person. I don’t really get going until after 9, and that’s only because I have a dog and a cat who have figured out that I respond to whimpering and scratching.
To win a copy of The Beggar’s Opera
(Canada Only) prize to be drawn with random.org on March 1st
(Don’t forget to leave contact information in case you win.)
1. Leave me a comment about the last really great book you read.
2. Follow thriftymommasbrainfood with GFC (see side bar or leave me a note stating that you already follow)
Extras: Two extra entries if you follow @inkscrblr
Two more if you follow @PeggyBlair on Twitter
DISCLOSURE: I received an ARC in order to review this novel. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own and always will be