Cover image for Queen of bones
Title:
Queen of bones
ISBN:
9781641290159
Physical Description:
274 pages ; 22 cm.
Geographic Term:
Summary:
Padrino, a former detective on the Cuban police force, has retired and found a new, happy life as a Santera priest. But he is drawn back in for a murder investigation when his goddaughter, Rosita, who works at the local cemetery, recognizes one of the bodies that crosses her embalming table. Meanwhile, an old flame of Rosita's, Juan, has returned to Cuba after fleeing by raft twenty years ago. He is with his American wife, Sharon, and has come back to catch up with his old college circle--Victor, his estranged best friend, and unbeknownst to Sharon, his most serious ex-girlfriend, Elsa, with whom he never quite fell out of love. When murder occurs within this group, it will cost Padrino more than he expects to untangle everyone's lies and track down the killer. --
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Summary

Summary

Padrino, a former detective on the Cuban police force, has retired and found a new, happy life as a Santeria priest. But he is drawn back in for a murder investigation when his goddaughter, Rosita, who works at the local cemetery, recognizes one of the bodies that crosses her embalming table.

Meanwhile, an old flame of Rosita's, Juan, has returned to Cuba after fleeing by raft twenty years ago. He is with his American wife, Sharon, and has come back to catch up with his old college circle-Victor, his estranged best friend, and unbeknownst to Sharon, his most serious ex-girlfriend, Elsa, with whom he never quite fell out of love.

When murder occurs within this group, it will cost Padrino more than he expects to untangle everyone's lies and track down the killer.


Author Notes

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1966. She earned her BA in English literature and an MA in Spanish literature at the University of Havana, and her PhD in Latin American literature at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of twelve other works of fiction and three plays, and is the winner of the Rinc n de la Victoria Award and a finalist for the Herralde Award. She lives in New Mexico.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cuba's distinctive culture and cuisine again serve as the backdrop for Dovalpage's enticing second Havana mystery (after 2018's Death Comes in Through the Kitchen). Twenty years after Cuban Juan Chiong barely survived a raft trip to Miami, Fla., his life has certainly improved: he has a stable, well-paying job as a contractor in New Mexico and is married to wealthy real estate agent Sharon. Juan now plans to return to Havana, though Sharon senses he'd rather do so alone. Concerned about Cuba's political instability and her husband's vague plans, Sharon accompanies him to the island nation. Juan, who's determined to find his lost love, Elsa, is oblivious to the danger of delving into the past that still haunts him. Even after a childhood friend's murder, he continues to dig, putting everyone around him at risk. Dovalpage skillfully evokes the lights and shadows of life in Cuba as the forlorn, reckless Juan contends with the women who try to control him. Vibrant supporting characters such as Padrino, a Santería priest, and Lt. Marlene Martínez, a police detective, lend color. This moving tale of love, loss, greed, and betrayal will also appeal to non-mystery readers. (Nov.)


Booklist Review

Twenty years after fleeing Cuba in 1994, Juan Chiong returns to his homeland for the first time. He wants to see his abuela, who has dementia; to make amends with college friend Victor Perez Diaz; and to catch up with girlfriends Elsa, the love of his youth, and Rosita, who had pursued him. But his quest is complicated when Victor, who had cared for Juan's late father before transitioning to Victoria Sunrise, is found dead on the day of a planned lunch at which Juan and Elsa could meet. Juan also learns that he left both Elsa, now a rich businesswoman, and Rosita, a mortician, impregnated when he made his traumatic escape from Cuba on a raft. Investigating Victoria's death which turns out to be the first of several are Havana Police Lieutenant Marlene Martinez and retired detective turned Santeria priest, Padrino, introduced in Dovalpage's first mystery, Death Comes in through the Kitchen (2018). As in that book, Cuba shines here, as Havana native Dovalpage contrasts its politics and society over a generation, making this a good bet for armchair travelers as well as mystery buffs.--Michele Leber Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Award-winning author Dovalpage brings back Padrino, a Cuban police detective-turned-Santería priest, from her triumphant crime-fiction debut, Death Comes In Through the Kitchen. Here, he returns to investigative mode when goddaughter Rosita, who works at the cemetery, shivers in recognition at a corpse on her embalming table. Meanwhile, Rosita's old boyfriend returns with his American wife after 20 years, setting the scene for a Cuba-then, Cuba-now narrative split.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Prologue Oyá dresses in purple and dances alone, with a necklace of bones clicking around her throat. She is the keeper of the cemetery gates and welcomes refugees from life into her kingdom. She collects little sugar skulls on the Day of the Dead and offers sweets to the widows and orphans. The mother of nine stillborn children, she has a special place in her heart for women who have lost their babies, as well as children without mothers.      Owner of the seven winds, Oyá rides them and rules over storms, tornadoes and tempests. She often enters atop them brandishing her horsetail fly whisk, swirling her nine skirts.      She keeps one foot in life and the other in death. Mistress of cemeteries, the orisha Oyá is not to be invoked in vain. The ceremony started in the early afternoon. That day, February the second, was devoted to the Virgin of Candlemas, associated with Oyá in the religion of Santería. (Oyá was also worshipped as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, though even the most knowledgeable santeros couldn't explain her connection to the Discalced Carmelite nun.) Her devotees had gathered in an old house located in Guanabacoa, a colonial town across the bay from Old Havana. The backyard had been prepared for the ceremony. An altar stood covered in a white linen cloth and ornamented with fresh violets, candles and candy in small copper trays, as copper was Oyá's favorite metal. Eggplants--fried, steamed and raw--were served on porcelain dishes. A large print of Saint Thérèse presided over the altar.      The women who hoped to be possessed by the orisha wore skirts in all shades of purple. The newly initiated to Santería were dressed only in white down to their stockings and shoes, with white turbans or white kerchiefs covering their heads. Men were dressed formally, with old-fashioned, well-polished shoes and ironed shirts.      At three o'clock, the drums began to thunder. Dancers moved in a whirl and followed the rhythm that beat in synchrony with their hearts. Those who didn't dance remained in their seats eating malanga fritters, a meat and vegetable stew known as caldosa , and guava pastries, all of which they washed down with generous swigs of rum.      Rosita, a tall forty-year-old woman who was dressed in all purple for the occasion, felt the wind rushing in her ears. Padrino, the babalawo who was leading the ceremony and Rosita's Santería godfather, tapped her lightly on the head with his cane. She stood, and Oyá entered her body, whizzing through her, dancing, laughing, crying, bending over, grabbing food from people's plates and eating it right before their eyes.      "Maferefún, Oyá!" they greeted her.      The orisha blessed the guests in a grave voice laced with contralto undertones. Oyá kept dancing until Rosita's body collapsed on the floor. Two older women took her to a bedroom and placed cologne-soaked towelettes over her forehead. After she'd recovered, Padrino came to see her.      "Oyá came in strong today," he said.      Rosita smiled and spoke in her usual high-pitched tone.      "Padrino, do you remember that boyfriend of mine who left Cuba?" she said. "Juan. The one I couldn't forget."      Padrino nodded.      "Oyá told me he would come back, like a salmon swimming upstream. Does it mean he's returning to Cuba, Padrino? Juan hasn't been back in twenty years, as far as I know."      "Maybe," Padrino said. "But do you know why salmon swim upstream, mija ?"      "To mate?" Rosita blushed.      "And to die."      "Don't say that, Padrino," she whispered. "Juan is the man of my life. The first and the only."   Chapter 1 Change of Plans   The water was hot, but not scalding. The golden glow from the jasmine-scented candles created an ambiance that Sharon, in her real estate jargon, would have called "intimate luxury," "a private sanctuary" or something of that sort. She shifted in the hot tub and let the jets massage the tension out of her shoulders. Her acupuncturist had mentioned that she had knots underneath them. She sighed.      Yes, she was tense. Nobody had to tell her that; she already knew it. First, there was that high-end North Valley property she'd hoped to sell sooner than now. She had wooed the owners, an elderly couple, until they'd agreed to let her stage their home using everything from trendy designer friends' tips to feng shui furniture arrangement. In a year of painfully slow sales, that 1950s house, with its five bedrooms, marble countertops, and Olympic-sized pool that hadn't been used in a decade, was her small real estate company's most auspicious prospect.      An open house was scheduled for the coming Saturday, the same day her husband was flying to Havana. It would be Juan's first visit to the island in twenty years. Though he hadn't said it in so many words, Sharon had the impression that he preferred to travel alone.      She remembered their meeting with the Santa Fe-based travel agent who had helped Juan get his Cuban passport and, bizarre as it sounded, his Cuban visa as well.      "So I can buy a visa for twenty-five dollars and travel to Cuba tomorrow, while Juan, who was born there, needs to ask for his visa three months in advance and pay four times as much?" Sharon had asked. "That's weird."      Sonya, the Cuban travel agent, agreed that it was.      "That's Cuba for you, Señora," she said. "A little crazy, yes. But I'm here to make the paperwork easier for you."      Sharon liked her. Sonya was bright and polite. Unlike Juan, she spoke fluent English. As the only Cubaviajes representative in New Mexico, Sonya managed everything from people-to-people permits for Americans to the entry visa and passport applications for Cubans.      It took Juan five months to get all his documents ready. He needed a Cuban passport to enter the island and an American passport to get back to the United States. The fact that he had left Cuba on a raft in 1994 also contributed to the delay, Sonya explained. "They" had probably gone through his records to make sure he wasn't the kind who would go back to cause trouble. "They" was the ambiguous pronoun that Cubans, or at least the Cubans Sharon had met, used when talking about their government and its surveillance system. It could be the political police, La Seguridad. Or Fidel Castro himself, or his brother Raúl, or the Politburo. But things were improving, Sonya had assured Sharon. "The paperwork will get easier from now on," she had said.      Sharon looked out the picture window she had installed in front of the hot tub. She had bought this town house because of its Sandia Mountains view and the glorious sunsets it captured. She had also gotten it because Juan had fallen in love with the golf-focused gated-community gym, where a retired weightlifter offered weekly classes. Juan didn't know how to play golf, but he loved body building. He also loved the pool and Jacuzzi--and all good things in life, as he put it. Sharon wanted to think that one of the good things in his life was her.      She got out of the hot tub and glanced at her naked body in the full-length mirror. At forty-nine, she still looked good. No belly fat. Wide hips, but she had a grown daughter. Good posture. Tits nipped and tucked. For her fiftieth birthday, she would buy herself a facelift.      She opened the door to the master suite and heard Juan's voice. He was speaking Spanish. After seven years of marriage to him and several classes at a local college, Sharon wasn't totally fluent, but she understood almost everything he was saying. And he was saying this:      "I want to see you again. To make sure we're okay . . . No, no, I'm not blaming anyone! I just need to see you. That's why I'm going alone. No pressure, you know?"      Sharon waited behind the door until Juan finished his conversation. It ended with a promise to call whomever he was talking to as soon as he arrived and a muddled apology.      Sharon pursed her lips and patted herself dry. She put on a blue cardigan sweater and white pants, which she had laid out for herself on the sink before her bath, and breathed in heavily to calm herself down. When she entered the master bedroom, Juan had changed into his workout clothes.      " Amor , I am going to the gym," he said, pronouncing "gym" "yin."      "See ya."      As soon as he left, Sharon started looking around for Juan's cell phone, but couldn't find it. He must have taken it with him, though he usually didn't when he went to the "yin."      She willed herself not to panic. Excerpted from Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.