Havana Lost

Havana Lost

by Libby Fischer Hellmann

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940157065560
Publisher: Libby Hellmann
Publication date: 08/24/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 388
Sales rank: 958,960
File size: 730 KB

About the Author

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Twelve novels and twenty short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community* and has even won a few.


With the addition of Jump Cut in 2016, her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Last fall The Incidental Spy, a historical novella set during the early years of the Manhattan Project at the U of Chicago was released. Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection. In 2005 Libby was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500 member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. She also hosts a monthly radio show called “Second Sunday Crime” on the Authors on the Air internet network. More at

* She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the Lovey multiple times.

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Havana Lost 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
This newest book by Libby Fischer Hellmann, a departure from her acclaimed Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis mystery series, introduces the reader to Francesca (“Frankie”) Pacelli in the not-so-distant Havana, Cuba of 1958, in the days leading up to the revolution headed by Fidel Castro which overthrew the Batista regime. It was a time that I can clearly remember, when the US and New York City in particular hosted Castro and greeted him as a hero. Frankie’s father is a mafia capo, mentored by Meyer Lansky and operating one of Havana’s most sumptuous hotels and casinos, before the revolution changed everything in the lives of the Pacellis and all of Cuba. The ensuing portions of the book take place initially in Uganda during a time of great unrest in that and neighboring regions of Africa, where apparently half a million Cubans were sent by Castro to preserve that country’s Marxist government (referred to as Cuba’s Vietnam). It was a time of great upheaval in many parts of the world (which encompassed also the tearing down of the Berlin wall). The novel then follows its protagonists, Frankie and what is left of her family, to Chicago and Miami over ensuing decades. Frankie is now head of the Family, and much of what ensues arises out of her need to retain control and to exact revenge for the murders of some of those closest to her over the years. And just when the narrative threatens to lag, the plot takes another unexpected turn, amping up the suspense and usually bringing with it more violence in the process, with the reader seeing the argument of socialism vs. capitalism vs. avarice up close. Though I must admit to not leaning toward multi-generational sagas, nor historical novels, with apologies for the cliché I found this to be a book that transcends both genres, presenting as it does an engrossing tale, one which is recommended.
gaele More than 1 year ago
AudioBook  Review: Overall:  5   Narration:  5  Story:  4.5  Libby Fischer Hellman was my entrée into the suspense / thriller AudioBooks, and the quality that I noticed in her other titles: both historical accuracy and characters created to bring the “feel” of the events to life are exemplary.  In her pairing of work with narration, Diane Piron-Gelman is the perfect narrator, and for a twist, she has added the narrating talents of James C. Lewis: a dual narration that matches the story in both tone and pitch, and provides a listen that is both pleasant and easy to comprehend.  Havana Lost brings us three generations all with ties to both Havana and Chicago, but starting with Francesca, daughter of a Mafia man with ties to Chicago; he is running a casino in Havana in 1958 (pre-revolution).  Francesca meets and falls in love with a pro-Castro revolutionary and runs away with him rather than cooperate with her parents’ plans to return her to the less-volatile Chicago. From here the nuancing of characters and extensive research come into play: what is commonly believed as a good/bad or black/white issue around the Cuban revolution and conversion to communism (with a healthy dose of time expended to show ties between Cuba and Angola) give a healthy shade of grey to explore, from that viewpoint alone this is a history lesson without the boring bits! In typical strong-arm fashion, Francesca is found and returned to her parents care, and married off before her pregnancy becomes a known issue.  Her growth throughout the story, the hardened edges and maturity are impressive, while never refusing to acknowledge the ties she and her son have to Cuba.  These ties will lead her son and granddaughter to return in search of a rumored buried treasure: each one brings a vision of Cuba past its glory days of the 30’s and 50’s with Hemingway at the bar and casinos bringing American tourists to spend.  From gentle decline to abject poverty, secretive revolutionary thinking and harsh punishments for those who speak out: this story shows a correlation in the family losses to the country’s decline that are near parallel. Narration is perfect in this story: never harsh or overbearing, not distracting or overly emoted, the narrators match pitch and tone with patois and delivery to delineate characters, giving readers a sense of who is speaking at all times.  If there is one weakness, it is the rush to the finish to wrap the story up with conclusions that are not quite signaling the end of the road, but presenting a bleak picture of both life with the mafia and life in modern Cuba. Full of twists and turns, and several unexpected moments this was a listen that was hard to put on pause, and has whet the appetite for more. I received an AudioBook version of the title for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Carl80 More than 1 year ago
Author Libby Hellmann, with a number of Chicagoland detective mysteries to her credit has moved in a new direction. This novel continues that move, beginning with the excellent “Set The Night on Fire,” continuing with “A Bitter Veil,” and now this novel. Here we have a love story set against the turbulent and dangerous background of the Cuban Revolution. The story of two lovers from wildly different circumstances form the catalyst that drives this story. Hellmann’s skills as a writer have continued to improve and her talent is most obvious when she deals with the principal characters, Luis the revolutionary, follower of Fidel Castro and his inamorata, Francesca Pacelli. She’s the teen-aged daughter of Tony, the American manager of a luxury casino and night-club. Pacelli is a confidant of Meyer Lansky, among others in the nightlife enterprises of Havana in the late 1950’s. Hellmann has created a vibrant, colorful Cuba of the 1950’s on the brink of a revolution as Castro’s oppressive and revolutionary force move to take over the island nation. The evolution of Francesca Pacelli from a headstrong hormonal teenager in exotic Cuba to a steely, self-assured Chicago matron, head of a far-flung business enterprise, is fascinating and very well handled. Once can argue that the Angola device (you’ll have to read the novel for explanation) carries the principals far afield and is something of a distraction. Never mind. The central story is compelling and what gives this novel its fire and its depth of feeling, is the character movement. Consistent, logical, rising out of circumstances, Luis Perez and Frankie Pacelli set in motion both life-affirming and tragic, nearly inevitable violent confrontations set against the wider forces of the times. The scope and sweep of this novel is spectacular, beginning in the 1950s and terminating in today’s difficult circumstances, from Cuba to Africa to Chicago. But over ad over, Hellmann effectively brings the focus down to the individuals important to this narrative. Truly, a novel to be savored.
readerbynight More than 1 year ago
Well-written no-holds-barred historical fiction of Cuban life; revolution, mobster wealth, Santería, Batiste, Che and Fidel, poverty and resilience. Told in three parts: Part 1 1958 Cuba, Part 2 1989-1992 Angola and Part 3 Present Day Chicago. Three generations of a wealthy Sicilian/Cuban family through the strife and poverty of Cuba during the rule of Batiste, the revolution by Che and Fidel, followed by rule under Fidel Castro. The daughter of a Mafia boss, Francesca/Frankie is determined to live her life on her own terms. She is about to be sent to America 'for her safety.' What choice does she have but to flee her home? To the background of rebel fighting, Santería and Cuban fire in her blood, she has found the love of her life. On her father's orders, she is torn from the arms of her lover, probably the only man who can or will keep her safe, and she is devastated as she is shipped off to America. From this point the story veers to life after Fidel. An aside to this is sending Cuban troops to Angola, and we are thrown into the life of Luis, Frankie's lover. As one of the Cubans sent to Angola, a new thread is added by way of mining a newly coveted mineral. A map is the key to all that follows. This book is not only an insight into the Mafia families and their connections to both Soviet and American 'providers' while Cubans starve. It is also a clear and defining history of the country over the past 50-plus years. A well-written, no-holds-barred history which is still happening. What is interesting to me is that often the very thing the Cubans have learned by assimilation to dislike and distrust about 'America,' is at the same time found in Cuba. This excellent book cuts no corners, but at the same time has a fascinating tale to tell. The reader can not help but become a part of this family, and get a feeling of Cuba itself. Rooting for some, fearing for some, in awe of the acceptance of their plight and their resilience of spirit. Tension builds throughout the book. Superstitious as many Cubans may be, what reason should we have to be non-accepting of their grasp at whatever they feel they can trust? Little enough. This Canadian reader immersed herself in the book with deep feelings of anger and sorrow, yet with happiness in the love that some found. Libby Hellman has caught my attention and taken me away to a different world...actually more like three different worlds, and I thank her for that. She made me feel the book, a myriad of feelings and touched my soul. I felt the music, saw the poverty, as well as the beauty. Highly recommend. Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The rating and words are mine alone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is Monday afternoon and I am on vacation.  In fact, I’m at the beach and have only been here since Saturday afternoon!  Libby Fisher Hellmann gave me a copy of her new novel, HAVANA LOST, to read and review so I brought it along.  I thought possibly I could spend a little time here and there this week, lost in HAVANA LOST.  I just finished reading the whole thing!   Once I began reading this book, I could NOT put it down.  I mostly read the book on my iPad, but when the battery began to fail, I picked up my phone to continue reading as I charged the iPad’s battery.  I could not put the book down!  I continued my eReading game of tag because I simply could not put the book down. I am disappointed as I still have 5 more days at the beach and am left with a dried and curled old Agatha Christie paperback.  I did not want HAVANA LOST to end! HAVANA LOST begins as the story of the headstrong 18-year old Francesca Pacelli, daughter of a connected American casino owner in old Havana, Cuba, at the end of the 1950’s.  Francesca runs away with her lover, a freedom fighter with Fidel Castro as her father turns the island upside down trying to find her and send her to safety in the US.  The story follows three generations of the Pacelli family, from the troubled streets of revolutionary Havana to the present as the past catches up in Chicago. Ms. Hellmann paints a vivid and colorful picture of Cuba as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara fight the corruption of Batista as well as the post Soviet Union Cuba of abject poverty and a failed ideal. Be prepared.  Once you begin reading this book, you WILL NOT be able to put it down until you turn the last page.  And you’ll turn that last page with reluctance because it will mean the end of a riveting story.
MasonCanyon More than 1 year ago
Author Libby Fischer Hellmann takes you to a different place and time and brings you back to the present in her soon-to-be released thriller, HAVANA LOST. It’s a mesmerizing story of lost love, conflict and suspense. The story begins on the eve of the Cuban Revolution as Francesca ‘Frankie’ Pacelli, a headstrong 18-year-old American, flees the luxury of her father’s casino and lifestyle to be with her lover, Luis Perez. Frankie’s father, Tony Pacelli, is a ruthless Mafia boss determined his daughter should return to the U.S. Life with Luis, a rebel fighting with Fidel Castro, is different. But Frankie quickly adapts and enjoys life. She becomes pregnant and the couple plan their life together. Meanwhile, Frankie’s father uses any means necessary - blackmail, torture - to find his daughter. He has her kidnapped from her home while Luis is away on a mission. The life Frankie dreamed of is shattered as she’s sent back to the states. Thirty-plus years later a member of the Pacelli family is lured back to Cuba. But what is discovered is far more significant than the untold riches others are seeking. The consequences of those actions have dangerous results that come to a head twenty-plus years later. HAVANA LOST is a spellbinding saga that follows three generations of a troubled family looking for wealth and happiness, but finding pain and sorrow with only glimmers of what might have been. The family’s search goes from the war-torn streets of Havana to the mean streets of Chicago. The story explores how strife and revolutions affect those it touches, and how the need for power and wealth can destroy. Hellmann has created realistic, well-developed characters with secondary characters that add flare and depth to the story. Her protagonist Frankie is a character you will first love, then come to dislike, but will still have empathy for. With an eye for authentic historical detail, Hellmann’s vivid descriptions of Havana and the sights and sounds of the Revolution places the reader in the middle of the action. You can almost feel the mist from the ocean, hear the musicians in the streets, and feel the terror and joy of a new life promised by the Revolution. HAVANA LOST draws you in and holds you enslaved to know more. You feel the characters joy and happiness, as well as their pain and sorrow. A roller coaster ride of emotions and fast-pace action, the story will leave you wanting more. For Frankie, HAVANA LOST is when love goes awry leading to a life never wanted, but one embraced with complete control and denial. A gripping tale of love, betrayal and absolute power. FTC Full Disclosure - A copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago