The Cuban Leonardo Padura (born in 1955) is a most original crime novelist. That said, his books share many features with those of other famous practitioners of the genre. His detective, Mario Conde, drinks too much. He is lonely. He meets attractive women and even has sex with them, but for some reason they always leave him. Conde is a policeman but has no interest in promotion, paperwork or approval. He is driven to solve murders but works in his own way. He abhors the use of violence: his weapon is his brain. Ian Rankin, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Andrea Camilleri, Jo Nesbo… a long line of crime novelists have similarly outsiderish protagonists.
There are two reasons in particular to read Padura’s novels. The first is the narrative voice. The stories are told through Conde’s mind, and Padura succeeds in the difficult task of combining scathing sarcasm and sincerity. It is not a cynical voice. The second is that Padura writes of