Thursday, 12 March 2020

Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage

Title: Queen of Bones
Series: A Havana Mystery
Author: Teresa Dovalpage
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: November 2019

Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita.

Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer.

Author Bio:

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has published ten novels and three collections of short stories.

Her first culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018) is set in Havana and features Padrino, a santero-detective. It is loaded with authentic Cuban recipes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldosa (a yummy stew). Her second mystery, Queen of Bones, was also published by Soho Crime in November 2019 and includes elements of Santería and, again, food—clearly, the author loves to eat! Both novels are rich in details about life in the island, the kind only an insider can provide.

They are the first two books of Soho Crime’s Havana Mystery series. Upcoming are Death of a Telenovela Star (June 2020) and 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 six novels, among them Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain) and El difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, which won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009).

Once in a while she delves into theater. Her plays La Hija de La Llorona and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (published in Teatro Latino, 2019) has been staged by Aguijón Theater in Chicago.

Q&A's with Teresa Dovalpage:

NBC News chose Queen of Bones among the ten best Latino books in 2019. Was it a surprise?
Very much! I didn’t expect it at all. It was a wonderful surprise and a great way to end the year. It was also an honor to be in the company of writers I admire like Daniel Chacón and Johanny Vázquez Paz.

Queen of Bones is the second novel in Soho Crime’s Havana Mystery series. How many books are part of it?
Up to now, four. The first was Death Comes in through the Kitchen, a culinary mystery published in 2018. Then came Queen of Bones (November 2019). They have common characters, like National Revolutionary Police Lieutenant Marlene Martinez and Padrino, the santero-detective who solves the case in Death... But each book is standalone, so you don’t need to read them in order. The other two will be released this year. Death of a Telenovela Star (June 2020) takes place mostly on a cruise ship, but there are many references to Cuba because Marlene is the main character. The fourth is Death under the Perseids, which happens both aboard a cruise ship and in Havana. And there will be more…

Do you write short stories too? Is the process very different?
Yes to both. My short story “The Sandalwood Killer” appeared in the 2020 January/ February issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. It’s a totally different process. I feel that short stories come to me “in one piece,” completed with beginning and end, while a novel requires more plot tweaking.

When do you prefer to write?
At night. I am a night owl and my best ideas always come around midnight, when the house is quiet. I write a lot during my long weekends (I have Fridays off). In the weekdays I mostly review what I did over the weekend.

You have Fridays off…do you have a day job?
Yes, and I love it. I am a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. I like teaching, interacting with my students and showing them that it’s possible to master a language learned later in life —I didn’t speak English on a daily basis until I came to the United States in 1996, though I had studied it in Cuba.

Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Inspiration is everywhere! The idea for Death Comes in through the Kitchen came after my mother suggested I write a cookbook with my grandma’s recipes. Being a mediocre cook, I couldn’t come up with a cookbook for the life of me, but the recipes became part of a mystery I was writing at that time. It turned out to be a “culinary mystery”—a term I didn’t even know back then. Queen of Bones was inspired by a family connection I have with the Havana cemetery—its main entrance was built by Eugenio Rayneri, my paternal grandfather’s uncle. I also wanted to write about Santería and Cuban-Chinese religious beliefs…they are fascinating. Death of a Telenovela Star came after a Caribbean cruise that my husband and I took a couple years ago. The things you see on a cruise, oh my! Enough to write several novels.

Where can our readers find out more about you?
They can visit my blog:
and my Facebook page
¡Muchas gracias!

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