About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Havana Requiem by Paul Goldstein

Havana Requiem by Paul Goldstein – Michael Seeley has returned to Boone, Bancroft, the large New York City law firm that dismissed him because of his descent into a gin bottle. Sober for a year, he is rebuilding his intellectual law litigation practice principally in the worlds of entertainment and publishing. Seeley has long been known for representing the interests of artists, famous or unknown, with regard to the legal rights related to their work.

Hector Reynoso, an aged Cuban musician, arrives in Seeley’s Manhattan office seeking to have Seeley represent him in re-gaining the rights to his music that he surrendered decades earlier. A chance to help a composer musician becomes the opportunity to aid a culture when Reynoso advises he is there on behalf of the Cuban composers of his generation – the men who made and played music before the Cuban Revolution of 1957.

There is but a narrow window for them to pursue the return of their music. Under American law they can serve terminations of the original contracts but there is a finite time from the creation of the music and that limitation period is about to expire for these men.

Earlier in his career Seeley had flourished generating large fees for the firm from wealthy clients and personal satisfaction from pro bono cases on behalf of struggling artists.

Reynoso explains the music of himself and his friends is not the music of the Buena Vista Social Club. It is the music of black Cubans inspired by their African past. It is the music of men who were banned from the best clubs in Cuba because of their dark skin. Goldstein sets out the racism deep in Cuban society.

Their songs were the pop music of their era and are still appreciated by lovers of Latin music and used extensively in advertising. Millions of dollars in royalties are being paid each year but not to the composer musicians.

Seeley’s adrenaline surges as he realizes the case is a return to the excitement of his law student days when he helped Professor Felix Silver successfully challenge the U.S.S.R. which, having seized ownership of the writings of four Russian authors, went to court in America seeking to use copyright law to prevent the publication of the writings. Now he has an opportunity to aid artists of another totalitarian regime take ownership of their music.

His partners have mixed emotions about his quest. Hobie Harriman, recently of the U.S. State Department, leads the opposition. He argues these poor old men are not the clients a rising big firm wants to represent and the firm should pursue the representation of big business. After a close vote Seeley is allowed to proceed.

What looks straight forward becomes mysterious and complex when Reynoso disappears from New York City.

Seeley travels to Cuba to get the necessary documents signed by the Cubans. With Americans officially barred from direct travel to Cuba he flies to Canada so he can get to Cuba.

He finds in Cuba a faltering socialist state. Corruption is rising and most of the people are very poor. Goldstein provides a vivid portrayal of a country in decay.

Complications arise immediately on his arrival. Powerful shadowy forces are opposed to the return of the music. The strongly principled Seeley persists.

Who knew copyright law could be the subject of a thriller? Goldstein has created an exciting story about the ownership of music. It is a book that melds music, race, international politics and money with copyright law.

Seeley is a talented lawyer but his private demon, alcohol, still taunts him in times of stress.

I can easily understand why Havana Requiem won the 2013 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. It is a much better book than The Wrong Man by David Ellis which was the other book on the shortlist I have read.

I appreciate a regular commenter to this blog, kathy d., who encouraged me to read the book.

There are two earlier Michael Seeley books. I am going to have to go find them.


  1. Bill - I've been very much wanting to read this. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. I find it tragic that so many musicians didn't end up benefiting financially from the music they wrote. You often find that among the old blues and jazz musicians too.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I believe you will enjoy it. Many people suffer when they do not get legal advice before signing contracts.

  3. Paul Goldstein's two earlier books are good, the first dealing with patents on medication to treat AIDS was particularly good -- and on the right side.

    The Wrong Man was to me an escapist and fun read, meant to divert us from the routines of daily life, without much seriousness to it.

    Havana Requiem is a much more intense book, full of issues everywhere, just loaded with thinking by the protagonish -- and lots of board room conniving.

    I ended up liking the twists and turns, but don't agree with the political viewpoints espoused either about Cuba, which has been actively trying to get rid of racism and discrimination in many ways and also about U.S. politics and racism.

    However, that said, I can't resist a good legal mystery. The plot was original, the older musicians compelling. Their plight made me think of the many destitute blues and jazz musicians in this country who were brilliant and talented, but didn't earn money from their music, songs, etc.

    I will read the next Michael Seeley books. My disagreements with the author don't dissuade from reading more of his quite thought-provoking, intelligent stories, featuring a brilliant lawyer, who still is tormented b his own problems.

  4. Kathy D.: Thanks for the further comment. Goldstein is a good storyteller. Turning intellectual property law into thrillers is a talent.

    Having never been to Cuba I cannot comment on how that nation is dealing with racial issues.

    We have our own challenges in Canada.