Mario Conde investigates a murder in the Barrio Chino, the rundown Chinatown of Havana. Was it a ritual Santería killing or a just a sordid settling of accounts in a world of drug trafficking that began to infiltrate Cuban society in the 1980s? Soon Conde discovers unexpected connections, secret businesses and a history of misfortune, uprooting and loneliness that affected many immigrant families from China.
This is a study in cultural difference, in perceptions of race and racism, both overt and unconscious. Padura has a way of presenting a stereotype and making you think he is operating on a shallow level before exploding the tropes to great effect ... Padura’s view of Havana/Cuba is born of love for the people and the country but it’s brutal, realist, unromantic and all the more human for it ... Grab a Snake by the Tail is pitted with black humour, noir as the gods intended it to be. This intelligent and insightful crime novel is thoroughly intriguing. It will have you examining your own prejudices and assumptions. Conde is a compelling character and ultimately this is a very satisfying read.
...something like Padura on his very best form ... Once again, we have Padura’a irresistible combination of quirky storytelling and a vivid evocation of the city of Havana – Padura’s specialities, in fact. The translation by Peter Bush does full justice to the novel, which was inspired by the author’s work as a journalist when investigating the history of Havana’s Barrio Chino.
His series featuring Havana Police Inspector Mario Conde is so free of pretension, his characters so interesting, and his prose so bouncy one can even forget there’s murder going on ... How nice it is to watch a high-powered talent at work on a form that too often relies on flat-footed prose.