COLD HAVANA GROUND

Arnaldo Correa, Author, Marjorie Moore, Translator , trans. from the Spanish by Marjorie Moore. Akashic $22.95 (317p) ISBN 978-1-888451-52-8

Cuban author Correa offers a tantalizing glimpse into the world of Afro-Cuban religion and folklore in this exhaustively researched crime novel, his second book to be translated into English (after last year's Spy's Fate ). Retired policeman Alvaro Antonio Molinet returns to investigate the theft from Havana's Chinese cemetery of the body of Rafael Cuan, the last member of a covert society called "The Seven Dragons," created in Beijing in 1935 to fight China's enemies. Out of the original seven members, only Cuan, known as the Green Dragon, survived and escaped to Cuba. More than 50 years later, the Chinese government sends an envoy to Cuba to exhume his grave and to repatriate the remains for burial in a newly erected monument. Involved in some way with the theft may be one of the area's Afro-Cuban religious groups, which share a special reverence for the dead and believe that the souls of the departed become even more powerful after death. Though a blurb on the galley bills Correa as "the godfather of Cuban noir," some American hard-boiled readers may find the complex plot, which develops organically rather than linearly, slow going. With its detailed ethnographic background, including a glossary of terms for three different African-rooted religious systems, this one is more apt to appeal to fans of such authors as Janwillem Van de Wetering and Eliot Pattison, whose mysteries contain strong spiritual elements. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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