Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd

You may not find me reading a lot of Historical books, but when a Historical thriller lands in my lap, you bet I’m excited to read it right away!

Thank you Get Red PR and Lyons Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

From Goodreads: HARBOR OF SPIES is an historical novel set in Havana in 1863 during the American Civil War, when the Spanish colonial city was alive with intrigue and war related espionage. The protagonist – a young American ship captain by the name of Everett Townsend – is pulled into the war, not as a Naval Academy midshipman, as he had once hoped, but as the captain of a Havana-based blockade-running schooner. Even as Townsend gets entangled in the war effort, he also finds himself being pulled into the dangerous investigation of a murdered English diplomat which threatens his own life. Townsend becomes ensnared in the investigation of the Backhouse murder by rescuing a man from the sea, who turns out to be a prison escapee from El Morro Castle. That good deed to help this stranger condemns the protagonist himself to a Spanish prison, and sets in motion a plot where Townsend struggles to maintain his own sense of identity. He falls into the clutches of a Spanish merchant, who is making money off the American war, who introduces him to a world of spies, slave traders, and Spanish seductresses. From the bars, to the docks, to the dance halls, Townsend takes us into colonial Havana and then to the slave plantations in the interior even as he prepares his ship to run the blockade. The protagonist’s trouble-ridden experience leads him to become emotionally involved with the daughter of an American innkeeper in Havana. Together they help each other grapple with the uncertain moral terrain of a city caught up in the American war and the growing controversy over slavery.  Throughout the novel, Townsend can never shake loose the mystery about the man he helped save. As a foreigner and an outsider, he finds himself trapped by mysterious forces and circumstances beyond his control which ironically help him discover his own family roots in Cuba, and finally convince him to become a spy for the North. The novel is not only a richly drawn portrait of Spanish colonial Havana in the days when Cuba was flush with sugar wealth, but also provides a realistic look at the blockade runners that helped form the supply line into the South’s Gulf ports. A little-known fact about blockade running in the Gulf of Mexico in the early years of the Civil War is the important role that sailing schooners played in bringing arms and ammunition into the shallow harbors, bays and inlets that line the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas. 

What a cool book! I think what was most exciting about this book is seeing that Robin Lloyd, a former foreign NBC correspondent, was the author. He really added something special to this book with his prior knowledge and experience of the area. His writing really made me feel like I was right there in Havana, a place I honestly don’t have personal knowledge of myself. Such a vibrant setting for this book! I was completely intrigued by the murder investigation more than I was about the civil war references (that’s just my personal preference). I highly recommend this book for those who love historical fiction, and it’s a wonderful book for thriller lovers to step-out of their comfort zone.

4/5 Stars

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