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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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          Harbor of Spies
Harbor of Spies: A Novel of Historic Havana
By Robin Lloyd
McBooks Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1-4930-6090-0, US $19.95

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At the end of January 1863, the Laura Ann arrives at Havana, but is unable to enter the bay because night has fallen. Nor can she return to open waters because a Confederate gunboat is out there hunting merchant ships flying the Stars and Stripes of the United States. Acting captain Everett Townsend is debating what to do when he hears shouts coming from the shark-infested water. He rescues an injured man named Michael Abbot, who has just escaped from El Morro Castle.

Cuba is an enticing mystery to Everett because it is the homeland of his mother, but once she left the island, she refused to speak of it or her family. Helping the injured fugitive comes naturally to him since his family aids runaway slaves passing through Maryland. But Cuba is a far cry from the United States, and being a Good Samaritan sets in motion a series of falling dominos with dire consequences for Everett.

Abbot has been investigating the murder of an English diplomat that was swept under the rug, but there are those with power and influence who don’t want the matter reopened. They become aware of Everett’s assistance and, soon, he finds himself imprisoned and unable to contact anyone. The Spanish officials believe him to be a spy, an executable offense. Don Pedro Alvarado Cardona offers him a lifeline. The cost, however, is almost as disgraceful and distasteful as when Everett was booted out of the US Naval Academy. If he wishes to live, he must become a Confederate blockade runner. Havana is nominally a neutral seaport; in reality, it is a depot where Confederate ships can load British armament to smuggle into the South or unload cotton and other goods that would otherwise rot in blockaded Southern ports.

Everett reluctantly accepts Don Pedro’s offer, but vows to escape at the first opportunity. That chance doesn’t come. Instead, he is offered a chance to visit the plantations where he comes face-to-face with the realities of slavery and people who knew his mother. A foreign diplomat offers Everett a way to change the current path his life is on, but it requires him to gain the trust of Don Pedro, a suspicious and mysterious man who has many secrets.

Harbor of Spies takes place over a span of six months – a time that may seem short for the reader, but is an eternity for the characters. Lloyd has crafted an intricate web of interconnected subplots and enigmas that subtly ensnare those who venture into the past that was Old Havana, where societal disparities were rampant and no one trusted anyone. A real diplomatic murder serves as the catalyst and the depth of Lloyd’s historical research is evident throughout. He provides vivid portrayals of slavery, human trafficking, manipulations, crime, blockade running, corruption, espionage, jealousy, and romance. This is a story where everyone wears a mask and nothing is as it seems.

 

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Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar


   
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