Harbor of Spies

Written by Robin Lloyd
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In January 1863, a storm forces American captain Everett Townsend to sail his ship reluctantly into the Port of Havana. Before arriving there, he rescues an escaped Englishman from the sea and then helps him locate his friends in Havana. On his return to his ship, Townsend is captured by the police and thrown into jail. He is rescued by a mysterious but rich Cuban merchant and forced to sail to the United States by running the Union blockade. As a former Union Navy man, he is reluctant to participate, but the merchant’s thugs who sail with him keep him from sailing into a Union port.

In this novel of spies—Union, Confederate and Cuban—intrigue and an unsolved murder lead Townsend through 1860s Cuba. He is disturbed by the horrors of slavery and learns more about his mother’s past (she had been born and raised in Cuba before her marriage) while falling in love with a woman living in a Havana boardinghouse.

This enjoyable read offers suspense, fast-paced action, and an engaging protagonist placed in a historical setting. The author paints a rich and colorful picture of Havana during the 1860s. It’s a real pleasure to read as tension builds to an exciting climax. I learned more about Cuba and its relationship with the governments of both the Confederacy and the United States. Caught between both worlds, the Cuban merchants tried to trade and make their fortune with both governments. I wasn’t aware of the harsh conditions experienced by the slaves of Cuba, treated as bad as or worse than their American counterparts in the South. Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy this book, as well as readers who like historical nautical fiction.