Friday, April 19, 2024

Last Seen in Havana Book Blitz


Last Seen in Havana
Teresa Dovalpage
(A Havana Mystery, #4)
Publication date: February 6th 2024
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller

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 . . .

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Sarah stood under a blue pendant lamp in the middle of a huge living room. The faded grandeur of the place still impressed her as it had the first day. She approached an upright piano and played the first chords of “London Bridge.”

Though the piano needed tuning, it had a rich, warm sound. There was a blue vase on top, next to the portrait of a dark-haired woman with a pearl necklace. The frame, heavy and ornate, looked like tarnished silver. The wall behind the piano was covered in paintings. The landscapes of marinas and countryside scenes didn’t impress the blonde, but she examined the portraits trying to discover a resemblance between their faces and Joaquín’s. If there was any, it eluded her.

Through the picture window, she saw people waiting in line across the street—the same people who had stared at her when she passed them. Her new neighbors. In due time she would join them at the grocery store queue, and they would get to know her.

She smiled and two dimples appeared on her cheeks. How fast things had moved! Less than a month ago she had been a guest at Hotel Colina in El Vedado, thinking of the handsome lieutenant who had swept her off her feet after the Triumph of the Revolution parade on January first, but not believing that their relationship (if you could call it a relationship) had any future. After all, she was an American—a “Yankee,” as they said here—who had come to Havana for eight days. But the days had turned into weeks. And the weeks would turn, hopefully, into months, and the months into years . . .

The sound of footsteps downstairs made her jump. She ran down the marble staircase, being more careful this time.


A tall man with angular features, almond eyes and a big smile had just come into the living room. He was wearing the green olive uniform of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which, in Sarah’s opinion, fit him amazingly well. The fact that she had fallen for a military guy still surprised her. Her father, with whom she had argued for years about everything under the sun, from politics to fashion, had been in the Navy, and she thought that was why he was so pig-headed. But she loved him and was closer to him than to her mother.

“¡Mi amor!”

Joaquín handed her a bouquet of white lilies, mariposas, which by now Sarah knew were the Cuban national flower. They hugged each other and kissed so passionately that a few mariposas were crushed in the process.

“They smell amazing!” Sarah said, pressing the bouquet against her face. “Thanks!”

“And here’s this too.” He offered her a small package wrapped in fancy tissue paper.

She tore it open and discovered a perfume bottle with the cap shaped like a dome. When she opened it, the scent of bergamot blended with the mariposa fragrance. She tried to decipher the name, written in Cyrillic characters.

“It’s called Red Moscow,” Joaquín said.

“It’s lovely! But you didn’t need to—”

“Don’t you know what day is today?”

She did. She had thought of it early in the morning, but he hadn’t mention it. She assumed Cubans didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because that would imply a religious reference to Saint Valentine. Joaquín had told her that religion was considered an “ideological deviation.” It made sense to her. The opiate of the masses and all that.

El Día de los Enamorados,” he said.

A day for lovers. Sarah liked that. She was enamorada, no question about it. And so was he. No, wait, he was enamorado—she still, sometimes, got her endings mixed up. They laughed, embraced again and hurried to the second floor. The mariposa bouquet and the Red Moscow bottle were left on top of the piano, between the blue vase and the silver-framed portrait.

A truck drove at high speed in front of the house. The piano shook slightly, and the ghost of a melody came from under the closed lid. The vase and the portrait stayed put, but the perfume bottle fell to the floor and shattered. A potent aroma filled the room and snuck upstairs, passed by the master bedroom and reached the library, where the lady in the painting wore an expression of disgust.

Author Bio:

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a college professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has a PhD in Hispanic Literature from the University of New Mexico with a specialization in Latin American literature.

She has published twelve novels and three collections of short stories. Her Havana Mystery series published by Soho Crime started with the culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (2018), set in Havana and featuring Padrino, a santero-detective. It is loaded with authentic Cuban recipes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldosa (a yummy stew). The second novel, Queen of Bones (2019) was chosen by NBC News as one of the top 10 books by and about Latinos in 2019. The third is Death of a Telenovela Star (2020). Set on a Caribbean cruise, it showcases the dark—sometimes deadly—side of celebrity, as well as the shenanigans that often happen abroad a cruise ship. Death under the Perseids (2021) also happens on a cruise ship, at first, and later in Havana, taking readers from the streets of La Habana Vieja to the botanical garden La Quinta de los Molinos. Upcoming is Last Seen in Havana, a sequel to Death under the Perseids.

She also wrote A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010).

In her native Spanish she has authored the novels Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain), El difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, which won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009), Posesas de La Habana (Haunted ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), La Regenta en La Habana (Edebe Group, Spain, 2012), Orfeo en el Caribe (Atmósfera Literaria, Spain, 2013), and El retorno de la expatriada (The Expat’s Return, Egales, Spain, 2014).

Her short story collections are The Astral Plane, Stories of Cuba, the Southwest and Beyond (University of New Orleans Press, 2012), Llevarás luto por Franco (Atmósfera Literaria, 2012) and Por culpa de Candela (Floricanto Press, May 2009).

Website / Goodreads

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