On the same day that the Mafia capo Umberto Anastasia is assassinated in a barber's chair in New York, a hippopotamus escapes from the zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers. Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquin Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mobster's when a secretive zookeeper whispers to him that he `knows too much'. In exchange for a promise to introduce the keeper to his idol, the film star George Raft, now the host of the Capri casino, Joaquin gets information that ensnares him in an ever-thickening plot of murder, mobsters, and, finally, love.
The love story is another mystery. Told by Yolanda, a beautiful ex-circus performer now working for the famed Sans Souci cabaret, it interleaves through Joaquin's underworld investigations, eventually revealing a family secret deeper even than Havana's brilliantly evoked enigmas.
In Dancing to `Almendra', Mayra Montero has created an ardent and thrilling tale of innocence lost, of Havana's secret world that is `the basis for the clamor of the city', and of the end of a violent era of fantastic characters and extravagant crimes. Based on the true history of a bewitching city and its denizens, `Almendra' is the latest triumph from one of Latin America's most impassioned and intoxicating voices.
Praise for Mayra Montero's previous novels:
'A literary tour de force . . . A tale of unforgettable beauty' Los Angeles Times on The Messenger
'A dazzling, original fugue on love and extinction' New Yorker on The Palm of Darkness
Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and several novels. She was born in Cuba and lives in Puerto Rico, where she writes a weekly column for the newspaper El Nuevo Dia.