The Role of the Detective
1) Let’s start with the basics. What is your author name; pen name if you have one?
2) Why did you decide to write mystery novels?
I had been flirting with the genre for several years in my Spanish-language novels. In Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, which was a finalist for the Herralde Prize in Spain in 2006), a Spaniard dies in Havana in mysterious circumstances. Then, in 2016, a friend suggested that I write a book of Cuban recipes. It made me laugh because I’m not a very good cook! But it occurred to me that I could combine the recipes with the idea for a mystery novel that I had been considering for some time... That was the spark for Death Comes in through the Kitchen, a culinary mystery and the first novel in the Havana Mystery series published by Soho Crime. Since then, I have written four more.
3) Is there a detective who solves the cases in your books?
Initially, yes. In the first two novels (Death Comes in through the Kitchen and Queen of Bones) it was Padrino, a Cuban police officer turned santero and later private-eye. And Marlene Martínez, a former National Revolutionary Police lieutenant, discovers the killer abroad a cruise ship in Death of a Telenovela Star. But in the last two novels, the protagonist, Mercedes, is the one who solves the cases.
4) What caused this change?
It made more sense, plot-wise, for Mercedes to discover her own family secrets. In Death under the Perseids, she goes on a cruise with her husband, and people around her start dying. Mercedes is the only one who knows how they are all related, and she doesn’t trust anyone enough to ask for help. In Last Seen in Havana, Mercedes returns to Cuba in search of her mother, Tania, who disappeared many years ago. Mercedes looks for everything that can lead her to Tania, from newspaper clippings to conversations with people who knew her mother. The presence of a detective barging into Mercedes’ family story would have seemed a bit intrusive, although at some point, I played with the idea of bringing Padrino in. However, I don’t rule out using Marlene or Padrino again in another book.
5) Well, if Mercedes has already solved two cases, even if both are related to her life, is there a possibility that she may become a professional detective at some point?
Why not? At the moment, Mercedes and Marlene, a former policewoman, co-own a Miami bakery called La Bakería Cubana. So it’s possible that at some point, they may decide to solve crimes together as well. I like the idea!
6) What are you working on right now?
I’m working on another mystery novel that takes place in two times: one day in 1980 and a week in 2020. The protagonist’s name is Teresita, and she writes mystery novels (any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental). Accompanied by Estrella, her middle school best friend, Teresita returns to Havana to solve a crime that occurred when they were teenagers. I’m having a lot of fun with it!
7) Do you have a website? If so, what is it?
8) Where can people find and follow you?
9) Tell us a little bit about your book and/or series.
Last Seen in Havana
A Havana Mystery Book 4
A Cuban American woman searches for her long-lost mother and fights to restore a beautiful but crumbling Art Deco home in the heart of Havana in this moving, immersive new mystery, perfect for fans of Of Women and Salt.
Newly widowed baker Mercedes Spivey flies from Miami to her native Cuba in 2019 to care for her ailing paternal grandmother. Mercedes’s life has been shaped by loss, beginning with the mysterious unsolved disappearance of her mother when Mercedes was a little girl. Returning to Cuba revives Mercedes’s hopes of finding her mother as she attempts to piece together the few scraps of information she has. Could her mother still be alive?
Thirty-three years earlier, in 1986, an American college student with endless political optimism falls deliriously in love with a handsome Cuban soldier while on a spontaneous visit to the island. She decides to stay permanently, but soon discovers that nothing is as it seems in Havana.
The two women’s stories proceed in parallel as Mercedes gets closer to the truth about her mother, uncovering shocking family secrets in the process . . .
Runs through Feb. 20th 2024
A hardcover copy of Death under the Perseids,
$10 Amazon giftcard – 1 winner each!
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