Grab a Snake by the Tail: A Murder in Havana's Chinatown

Leonardo Padura (Author) Peter Bush (Translator)


Mario Conde investigates a murder in the Barrio Chino, the rundown Chinatown of Havana. Not his usual beat, but when Conde was asked to take the case by his colleague, the sultry, perfectly proportioned Lieutenant Patricia Chion, a frequent object of his nightly fantasies, he could n't resist. The case proves to be unusual. Pedro Cuang, a lonely old man, is found hanging naked from a beam in the ceiling of his dingy room. One of his fingers has been amputated and a drawing of two arrows was engraved with a knife on his chest. Was this 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. As ever with Padura, the story is soaked in atmosphere: the drinking of rum in deliciously smoke-filled bars, the friendships, the food and beautiful women.

Product Details

$14.95  $13.75
Bitter Lemon Press
Publish Date
June 11, 2019
5.0 X 0.6 X 7.7 inches | 0.35 pounds

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About the Author

Leonardo Padura licenciado en filología por la universidad de esta ciudad, ha trabajado como guionista, periodista y crítico. Es autor de las novelas La novela de mi vida, en torno a la figura del poeta José María Heredia, y El hombre que amaba a los perros, un éxito de repercusión internacional en el que reconstruye las vidas de Trotsky y Ramón Mercader. Ha logrado el reconocimiento sobre todo por la serie de novelas policiacas protagonizadas por el detective Mario Conde: Pasado perfecto, Vientos de cuaresma, Máscaras, Paisaje de otoño, Adiós, Hemingway, La neblina del ayer y La cola de la serpiente, traducidas a numerosos idiomas y merecedoras de premios como el Café Gijón 1995, el Premio Hammett 1997, 1998 y 2005, el Premio de las Islas 2000, en Francia, y el Brigada 21. También ha escrito la novela, Herejes --ganadora del Premio de Novela Histórica Ciudad de Zaragoza y finalista de los premios franceses Médicis y Fémina--, La novela de mi vida, el libro de relatos Aquello estaba deseando ocurrir y El hombre que amaba a los perros, una trepidante reconstrucción de las vidas de Trotsky y Ramón Mercader, traducida a diez idiomas, vendidos sus derechos al cine y merecedora, entre otros, del Premio de la Crítica en Cuba. En 2012, Padura recibió el Premio Nacional de Literatura de Cuba. En 2015 le fue concedido el Premio Princesa de Asturias de las Letras 2015.
Peter Bush is a celebrated translator from the Spanish and Catalan, known for his translations of Leonardo Padura, Juan Goytisolo and Josep Pla.


"Few contemporary writers understand noir as well as Padura, and far fewer convey Cuba with such grit and sensuality." Playboy

"Overlaid with a rich smoky patina, an atmosphere that reeks of slums and riches, cigar smoke and exotic perfumes. Havana Black is a strong tasting book, a rich feast of wit and feeling." Independent

"Drenched with that beguiling otherness so appealing to fans of mysteries of other cultures, Havana Blue will also appeal to those who appreciate the sultry lyricism of James Lee Burke. " Booklist

"...a magnificent Dickensian evocation of the city's street hassle; it takes in drug dealers, hookers, people queuing for pizza, newly-weds, the hotels and baseball fans, and captures the enthralling gloom of dimly lit, apocalyptic early-evening Havana.' Times Literary Supplement

"Havana Gold is a textured treat for those who like their detective fiction served long and lazy with a double shot of rum." Financial Times

"Conde's quest follows the basic rhythm of the whodunit, but Padura syncopates Havana Red with brilliant riffs on Cuban sex, society, religion, even food." Independent

In this solid spin-off from Cuban author Pedro's Havana Quartet, police detective Mario Conde investigates the 1989 murder of 73-year-old Pedro Cuang in Havana's Chinatown. Fans of the Havana Quartet will welcome Conde's return. Publishers Weekly

How nice it is to watch a high-powered talent at work on a form that too often relies on flat-footed prose. Booklist

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. ELN Barry Forshaw

"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. NB Magazine