Rum, Cigars, and Corpses, by Jerold Last #MondayBlogs #BookReview


Roger and Suzanne have to solve a cold, but still hazardous, case in a hot climate. Roger’s newest client was fired after leading a disastrous tour to Cuba during which a tourist died in a devastating accident.

Our detective couple joins a subsequent identical tour of Cuba to seek evidence the catastrophe was murder, not an accident. There’s no shortage of suspects in this perilous case, including the Cuban Intelligence Services, the CIA, a sprinkling of additional spies waiting for them in Havana, and several suspicious characters traveling on their tour.

Danger lurks as they investigate the nightmare scenario that the victim was targeted by a deadly terrorist conspiracy. The author recently visited Cuba on a similar person-to-person tour, so all of the details about locations are authentic and the background is real.



As normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba gives American tourists the opportunity to visit the island, this exciting novel provides a real glimpse into a country that was literally frozen in time for over fifty years. The author and his wife recently took a people-to-people tour and provide interesting historic and cultural highlights sprinkled into a fictional account of murder, espionage, and intrigue.

The resilient attitude of the Cuban people shines through in spite of restrictions and repression imposed by an authoritarian regime. The beauty and history of the island are sure to attract business and expand freedoms in spite of harsh controls. Therefore, the country is bound to change rapidly.

The fictional part of the story centers on the death of an American tourist, who was killed in an “accident” after he strayed from the sanctioned people-to-people tour. The American tour guide was fired due to his death, and she hires Roger to uncover the truth, clear her name, and get her job reinstated. It’s a nearly impossible assignment. Roger takes on the job with Suzanne’s invaluable help and contacts an old friend from Peru, who is also a spy for the Israelis.

Product DetailsAnother part of the story is focused on a new American attaché assigned to the U.S. Embassy to uncover a leak. Of course, he is another spy working for the CIA. Will competing spies clash and threaten Roger and Suzanne? Their investigation leads down a bumpy road filled with deception, treachery, and betrayal. The Cuban pharmaceutical industry draws their attention with its potential to inject terrorist funds into the pockets of a traitor. Roger and Suzanne face danger at every turn.

This complicated novel is spiced with Latin flavor and sightseeing nuggets, but the tale of murder and espionage is sure to please any mystery/adventure enthusiast. If you wonder what the real world is like inside Cuba, take this exciting trip with Roger and Suzanne from the safety of your own home.


Setting is very important. To some writers, it is almost a character in their books. I suspect this holds true for author Jerold Last, who actualy visited Cuba, in person, to make sure he gave his readers a “You are there” experience.

I have little doubt he would ever dream of writing about a place that he hadn’t actually visited himself. So, if you feel like you know what Cuba looks like, how the air feels, what the birds sound like, what the flowers smell like, it’s because of the author’s dedication to his craft.

Having said that, he astutely observed that the Cuba he presents in this book is intimately connected with the Cuba that was presented to him. At the end of the day, he is a traveler to a country that few tourists from the USA have ever seen.

In this genre, (detective story), we have the obligatory visit from a potential client at the beginning of the story. In this case, it’s the beautiful Ms. Christine Suzuki, a former international tour director. She’s American, of Irish ancestry, and with conservative taste in stye and dress.

We find out she’s been fired from her job as an international tour director because  a tourist died, in Cuba, while on a tour she was responsible for. She wants her job back, and the only way to do that, is to prove that the death of the tourist wasn’t her fault.  Evidently, this investigation is more preferable to Ms. Suzuki than suing her company in court for wrongful termination of employment.

If you are nodding your head now, it’s because you begin to understand that Ms. Suzuki was earning a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that she actually wants to return to her job. This investigation will not antagonize her employer, and if she can show compelling proof that the tourist’s death was not her fault, she reasons that her old company will welcome her back.

I agree with her reasoning. Thus, Author Jerold Last has made the story plausible. As a reader, I am now willing to suspend disbelief. Rather than question whether or not such a thing is likely or not in real life, I can follow along and match wits with Roger Bowman. I want to discover who the murderer is is before it is revealed to me.

Product DetailsWe now have a good grip on setting, characters, major plot points, conflict, and theme. Our setting is present day Cuba. Our major characters, and their motives, are clear. The plot is a classic “Who Done It”, and the conflict will be “Man vs Man”. Whoever killed this tourist is the natural antagonist to Roger Bowman, our private detective.

The only question left to be resolved is whether or not we can predict / discover who is responsible for the death of the tourist. Author Jerold Last entertains readers while engaging all of our senses as he takes us on a highly imaginative journey to find a murderer in a country where the USA has not had diplomatic relations in over half a century. If this sounds like looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack”, you are absolutely right.

If you are a fan of detective stories, this story is one of Jerold Last’s finest. Whether you have read other books in this series or this is your first time reading his work, you will be pleased with “Rum, Cigars, and Corpses“. Highly recommended.


Jerold Last: Amazon Author Page




About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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