I am a huge fan of Peggy Blair's Inspector Ramirez series. The third book - Hungry Ghosts - has just released.
From the opening pages, I slipped back into the world of Inspector Ramirez of the Havana, Cuba police department. Ramirez is called to investigate an art exhibit vandalization. While there, a ghost joins him. Yes, Ramirez sees the dead - specifically the murdered. And one of those now following him is another dead prostitute - strangled with a pair of stockings.
Up in the colder climates of Canada, Detective Charlie Pike is also called to the murder of a dead woman on the Manomin Bay First Nation Reserve. She too has a stocking around her neck......
Blair's plotting is meticulous, inventive and oh, so well played. The two investigations mirror each other, from the crimes, the detectives, the metaphysical, politics and more. The cases are told in alternating chapters, guaranteeing that 'just one more chapter' late night read. Lots of twists and turns tie the two cases together in a most unexpected manner.
The plotting is rich, but so are the settings. The details surrounding both locales give the reader a vivid picture of both Havana and Northern Ontario, using architecture, the natural world, rules, laws, attitudes and language to bring both sites to life. I am fairly familiar with the First Nations lore and location, but did indeed learn something new. I am constantly fascinated by the details of Havana and the descriptions of what is not there (soap, meat and more) the limitations placed on the citizens, the city and land, as well as the customs and culture.
Blair winds social commentary about both countries throughout her novels to great effect. The novel is set in 2007 and many news/historical events are referenced, such as residential schools and Guantanamo Bay. This reality gives the books added depth.
But it is the characters of Ramirez and coroner Hector Apiro that have captured me. Ramirez is one of the last few honest cops left on Havana's force (although he does borrow rum from the evidence locker). He's dogged and determined and deftly weaves his way through the political mire of the department and country to achieve results. Seeing the dead only adds to the plot and the characters. Apiro's mind is brilliant and his personal storyline is both unique and moving. However, with this third novel, I found the character of Charlie Pike appealing to me just as much. His personal storyline is just as rich and compelling. Supporting players are just as well drawn.
The title? "...there are three kinds of ghosts. There are orphan ghosts, who have no children to honour them properly. There are the ghosts of those who die violently, who sometimes come back for revenge. And then there are the hungry ghosts, the ones who can't feed themselves enough no matter how hard they try. Most murdered women are hungry ghosts."
Hungry Ghosts was another satisfying read on so many levels. And an excellent addition to a wonderful series. Absolutely recommended - I'll be waiting for the next book. Read an excerpt of Hungry Ghosts.
Hungry Ghosts could certainly be read as a stand alone, but I really recommend you read the first two books - The Poisoned Pawn and The Beggar's Opera. They're both just as good and you'll get to know the characters from the beginning.
"Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. She is the author of the award-winning and critically acclaimed Inspector Ramirez mysteries The Beggar’s Opera and The Poisoned Pawn. She lives in Ottawa." You can connect with Peggy Blair on her blog, on Twitter as well as on Facebook.