The Miracle of Saint Lazarus
by Uva de Aragon
Books and Books
Detective Maria Duquesne is handed a cold case that no one else wants. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, a car ended up in a canal and the driver and his infant daughter are dead. Case closed. The baby’s mother can’t accept that her child is dead. No body was ever found, so the mother clings to that sliver of hope, never giving up on her conviction that her baby’s alive. The cold case is reopened when the the mother is convinced she saw her daughter, now in her 20’s, at a Florida Marlins game.
This is the jumping off point for an engaging story that takes us back to the chaos of the Mariel Boatlift, the confusion following Hurricane Andrew and deep into Miami’s Cuban community. What initially seems like indulging a Mother’s obsession, leads Detective Duquesne on a wide-ranging quest to find out what happened and if the girl is actually alive. To solve this mystery, the detective follows leads that take her back to the chaos following Hurricane Andew, the confusion of the Cuban refugee camps and the informal, expansive networks of the Cuban communities from Havana, to Miami and New York.
Uva de Aragon’s novel is a police procedural that is perhaps more realistic than most fictional crime stories. Like a real police investigation, the cold case is frequently interrupted by more pressing, immediate cases that need our Detective’s attention. To crack the case, we have to dive into the exile experience, life as a refugee and the sometimes illegal things people do to get by. We are introduced to a cast of quirky, but mostly sympathetic characters that Aragon makes us really care about. Cuban and Hispanic communities are rendered in vivid detail. You can almost smell the Cuban coffer, taste the picadillo and hear the music that is so much a part this world.
The Miracle of Saint Lazarus is ideal for readers who love the unraveling of a mystery but don’t want to the pages dripping with blood. There is a murder to be solved, but discovering who the victim was and how he fit into the complex relationship of the community are the bigger mystery. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can tell you that the mystery has a most satisfying conclusion.
With the demonization of immigrants that we see these days, The Miracle of Saint Lazarus is very timely. De Aragon explores what drives people to risk their lives to come to the United States and the sometimes dodgy things they have to do to make a life here.