Writer Ernest Hemingway was a “man’s man,” known for his zeal for violence in many forms, from bullfights and safaris to his unsanctioned acts of piracy in the Spanish Civil War. With so many adventures requiring so much bravery to his credit, how does such a man come to commit suicide? This is one of the questions that faces investigator Mario Conde when the corpse of an FBI agent dating back to Hemingway’s last days is found at Finca Vigìa, Hemingway’s home in Havana, which now serves as a museum.
Mario Conde, former cop, now a struggling writer himself, is conflicted about Hemingway and the outsized influence he had over Cuba, his adopted country. Hemingway was obsessed with weapons, insecure, petty with other writers, and unable to return love, yet loyal to the men who were important to him and all too aware of his own frailty. A nuanced portrait of the famous writer emerges as Conde speaks to the men who fished with him, worked with him, and kept his secrets.
This spare, evocative novel is a tribute to Hemingway, exploring themes he would have approved: loyalty, bravery, and what defines a man’s place in the world. It is also a meditation on growing old and the courage required to face it, a challenge Hemingway could not bring himself to face.