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Leonardo Pladura in Barcelona this week © Pep Herrero
Leonardo Pladura in Barcelona this week Photo: Pep Herrero

Leonardo Pladura wins at the Barcelona Crime Novel Festival

The Cuban writer, who just published 'Personas decentes,' was awarded for his literary career at the BCNegra festival

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The city of Barcelona is currently hosting the traditional BCNegra festival, the well-known festival dedicated to detective novels. For seven days (Feb. 6 to 12), the Catalan capital is immersed in a lively program of book presentations, conferences and literary activities around the genre. 

One of the most eagerly-awaited events is the presentation of the Pepe Carvalho award in recognition of a literary career, which is going to Cuban writer Leonardo Pladura this year. In August, Pladura published the novel Personas decentes (Decent People), starring his characteristic detective Mario Conde. 

"Padura's is one of the most prominent voices in Latin American literature today. A voice committed to both literature and Cuba, the great protagonist of his works, whether in his detective novels or historical novels, genres in which he moves masterfully, which he hybridizes and transforms, to build a work that is as Cuban as it is universal," said the jury of the Carvalho Award, whose name honors the detective Pepe Caravalho, the Barcelona detective created by Barcelona author Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, of whom Pladura was a friend. 

Set in Havana in 2016, Personas decentes kicks off with a historic event that shook Cuba: the visit of Barack Obama — the first official visit of an American president since 1928 — accompanied by events such as a Rolling Stones concert and a Chanel fashion show, which turned the island's rhythm upside down. When a former Cuban government leader is found murdered in his apartment, the police, overwhelmed by the presidential visit, turn to Mario Conde to lend a hand in the investigation. Conde discovers that the dead man had many enemies, because in the past he had acted as a censor so that artists would not deviate from the slogans of the Revolution, and he had been a despot and cruel man who had ended the careers of many artists who had not wanted to bow to his extortions. When a few days later a second corpse is found murdered with the same method, Conde must discover if the two deaths are related and what is behind them.

In addition to the plot, there is a story written by the protagonist, set a century before, when Havana was the Nice of the Caribbean and people lived thinking about the imminent change that Halley's comet would produce. A case of murder of two women in Old Havana uncovers the open struggle between a powerful man, Alberto Yarini, refined and from a good family, a capo of the gambling and prostitution business, and his rival Lotot, a Frenchman, who disputes his power. The development of these historical events will have a connection with the history of the present in a way that even Mario Conde himself does not suspect.

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