Wilkshire (Thin Ice, 2014, etc.) kicks off a new series by packing middle-aged pencil-pusher Charlie Hillier off to Havana as the Canadian Embassy’s new Management Consular Officer.
Charlie, who’s worked for the Foreign Affairs department for many years without ever leaving his ailing mother-in-law in Ottawa, is abruptly relieved of this responsibility by adultery (not his) and divorce. He’s ready to go somewhere—anywhere—different, and, as he realizes soon after a friend arranges for him to join the Cuban legation, “everything in Cuba was different.” How different? His new office is a serious comedown; the electricity doesn’t work in his spacious house’s basement; no official task is too routine to be delayed or torpedoed; Tate Martin, the hotelier whose case he takes up, has been jailed for bribery when his real crime is offering an insufficient bribe; and, oh yes, an impromptu excavation beneath the floorboards of Charlie’s new place discloses what certainly looks like a kilo of cocaine—at least in the brief interval Charlie has a chance to look it over before he accidentally drops it into his swimming pool. Although Charlie remains invincibly naïve, savvy readers will know that this last episode is bound to have consequences beyond possibly sickening Teddy, the golden Labrador he’s babysitting for his boss, Michael Stewart, the absent ambassador—and that those consequences are very likely to be linked to another incident that disturbs Charlie’s generally placid new life, the abduction and murder of Indian consular official Amirjit Saini.
A bit of romance, a bit of gentle humor, several bits of official corruption and drug-related violence, and a chance for the mild-mannered hero to rise to an impossible challenge. It doesn’t hold together any better than this summary suggests, but individual bites are tasty enough.