Cuban writer honored for ‘Queen of Bones’ murder mystery

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A report by Dorothy N. Fowler for The Idaho Statesman.

When Teresa Dovalpage learned that her murder mystery “Queen of Bones” had been chosen by NBC News as one of the top “10 books from 2019 by and about Latinos,” she was surprised.

“Nobody asked me and nobody from NBC contacted me,” she said in her heavily accented but grammatically perfect English. “A friend sent me a link on Face-book and that’s how I found out. It was a wonderful surprise and a great way to end the year.”

“Queen of Bones” is the second book of a trilogy that will morph into a series of four with the publication of “Death of a Second Star” in June and the completion of “Death Under the Preseids” later in the year.

These books, all written in English, join 10 novels and three collections of short stories, all written in by the Havana, Cuba-born Dovalpage in Spanish. Two of those books were nominated for prestigious awards. One of them, “The Late Fidel,” won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2011.

The first of the novels written in English, “Death Comes In Through the Kitchen,” falls into the genre of “culinary mystery” and in addition to the mystery, includes recipes for dishes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldosa, which Dovalpage says is a “yummy stew.”

Her other books in the series mention traditional Hispanic food, but do not include recipes.

“But if people want to know how to cook them, they can consult Google,” she laughed.

“Queen of Bones” begins in Albuquerque when a Cuban construction worker, Juan Chiong, decides to return to Havana for the first time in 20 years. He travels with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reunite with some old friends and perhaps a former girl friend.

While Chiong and his wife are in Havana, one of his best friends is killed and Chiong falls under suspicion. A former Havana police officer who now makes his living as a priest in the Santeria religion decides to work on the mystery. His re-entry into the world of investigation, however, is more complex than he anticipated and it is those complexities that provide the suspense in the mystery. Chiong’s visits to the Havana cemetery, a nursing home run by nuns, and an elegant neighborhood called El Vedado provide an opportunity for people familiar with Havana to recall the area as well as for people not familiar with Havana to get a feel for the city and its culture.

“I love writing about food and mysteries,” Dovalpage said. “Both are part of life. I also like to write about Cuba and offer readers a first-hand perspective on life in the island, showing them everything from small private restaurants to vintage American cars.”

Before moving to Hobbs, Dovalpage taught Spanish at University of New Mexico-Taos. For ten years, she was a columnist for the Taos News, where she covered the food scene, business and education.

She lives in Hobbs with her husband, Gary James, who is a retired aircraft mechanic. They live with three dogs, a 110 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and a “super cute mutt.”

The books, published by Soho Crime, based in New York, are available on Amazon and may soon be available at local libraries.

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