Libby Fischer Hellmann’s new book “Havana Lost” is a masterfully crafted globetrotting thriller. The novel begins in the pre-revolutionary Havana of 1958, where we first meet Francesca Pacelli, the restless and beautiful eighteen year old daughter of a Mafioso casino owner. She is “pinned” to a proper and upwardly mobile Italian-American young man in Chicago, the son of family friends, and it seems that her entire life is being planned for her by others. But soon she is swept away in a passionate love affair with a young Cuban revolutionary, in which the consequences of that affair transform her life and the lives of others near and dear to her forever.
Ms. Hellmann’s plot encompasses three generations of the Pacelli family often set in exotic international backdrops. She takes us back to decrepit Havana in 1991, as we witness, through some very intriguing characters, the exacting personal toll that the Revolution had wrought on the lives of ordinary Havana residents. We also experience the impact of the Angolan Civil War, known as “Cuba’s Vietnam,” on the Cuban soldiers who were there at that time.
This is the third book of Ms. Hellmann’s that I have read. Each one has been fast paced, intriguing and fraught with unexpected twists and turns that constantly surprise the reader as the story unfolds. She has a superb gift for the colorful depiction of her characters. Each book has been a delight for me to read, and I can’t imagine any noir aficionado not enjoying Havana Lost.