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