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DEATH UNDER THE PERSEIDS BY Teresa Dovalpage: Book Review

You may be certain that if something seems to be good to be true, it probably is.  That should have occurred to Mercedes Spivey when she’s told that she’s won a cruise for two from Miami to her place of birth, Havana, Cuba.  It’s true that she doesn’t remember entering any contest with that as the prize, but since things aren’t going well in her life at the moment, she decides to simply accept her good fortune.

Her husband Nolan’s teaching contract at Point South College in Gainsville, Florida, has not been renewed, and he has no other job on the horizon.  He is momentarily excited when an invitation to speak at the University of Havana arrives from one of its professors, but with the invitation came a note that “because of the embargo” the university couldn’t buy him a ticket or pay for his stay in Havana.

After he loses his job he realizes there is no money to pay for the expenses involved in the trip.  He is about to contact the professor who had extended the invitation and regretfully decline the opportunity when Mercedes comes home with the news of the free cruise.

While Mercedes and Nolan are waiting to board The Narwhal, Mercedes sees a professor whose class she had taken when she was a student at the University of Havana.  Selfa Segarra had been a colleague and friend of Mercedes’ deceased lover Lorenzo; at least, she had been considered a friend until a rumor started that she had reported one of his books to the political police.

Not eager to have a prolonged conversation with Dr. Segarra, Mercedes is about to get back to her husband when the professor mentions that she’s on the ship because she won a raffle with the cruise as the prize.  She, like Mercedes, doesn’t even remember purchasing a raffle ticket.  The professor tries to convince herself and Mercedes they are simply “a pair of lucky Cubans,” but both women are slightly uneasy about this.

The two women separate, with Mercedes reluctantly agreeing to see Selfa later, and a few minutes later Mercedes spots another familiar face on board.  Javier Jurado was a writer like Lorenzo, but an unpublished one, until after Lorenzo’s tragic death by fire Javier published Lorenzo’s novel under his own name and won the literary prize that rightfully should have gone to the dead man.

Now Mercedes is wondering about all these seeming coincidences.  She, Nolan, Selfa, and now Javier–all on the same ship headed for Havana.  And then Selfa disappears.

Teresa Dovalpage has written an exciting novel with a protagonist who is, as the Cubans says, de ampanga, “a piece of work.”  Although professing her love for the late Lorenzo, Mercedes had at least two affairs while they were together, including one with her now-husband Nolan.  When she wants something, she wants it.  Selfish, determined, persevering?  You decide.

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana but left in 1996 for the United States, where she has been living ever since.  She obtained her doctorate in Latin American literature from the University of New Mexico and has published eight novels.

You can read more about Teresa Dovalpage at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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