Ilze Berzins
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Riga Blanca jets the reader from legal Ottawa into the grimy and glitzy criminal underworld of post-Soviet Riga, exploring the fascinating relationships between local Latvians, the Russian population and the expatriate community. This is an East-meets-West thriller filled with suspense and surprises, colourful local traditions and many hilarious moments set against a European backdrop.

Click here to read the first few pages of Riga Blanca

Riga Blanca (Page 1)

Chapter 1

Paulette had been decked. And she was taking it hard. A Russian! Her Andy and a Russian! She kept repeating the words, picking away at them, licking them over and over, like a cat licking away at a wound. She felt as if she had been hit by a truck—devastated, destroyed, wiped out. And Andy had done this to her. Had turned her into a worn-out old cliché to be gossiped about in front of the frozen food section of a grocery store.

She lifted her wrist which felt heavy like a stone and looked at her watch. God, over four hours had gone by! She couldn’t believe that all this time she had been sitting slumped at the kitchen table, staring out into space, revisiting the moment that had almost killed her. She couldn’t believe how terrible she felt. Sure, she had read Nora Ephron. Who hadn’t? She’d seen the movie. Had loved the part where Meryl Streep had gone to the kitchen, had come back to the dining room carrying her homemade Key lime pie and had thrown it right in her husband’s face. She had hooted. Now that was smart and funny. But let’s face it, her own life was nothing like that. No one would be rushing in to give her a screen test or write a book about her. And why would they?

It was pitch dark, but she still hadn’t bothered to turn on the lights. Nor had she put away the groceries which were right where she’d dumped them on the kitchen counter. And there was still Andy’s going-way dinner to prepare. He was late. She could always count on that. Although, this time, she was almost glad. She needed the time.

God, would she ever snap out of it? Would she remain stuck in her chair forever? But then suddenly she did. She snapped right out of it. A liberating wave of anger swept over her. What a rush! She leapt from her chair as her mood exploded into a thousand particles that made her feel she’d died and gone to heaven. In a burst of energy, she pulled off her boots, shrugged herself out of her fleece, grabbed the grocery bags, flew everything into the fridge and cupboards, and moved toward the window to close the curtains. Then she stopped. Drew in her breath. There, in front of her, was the biggest brightest moon she had ever seen hanging in the pale blue night sky just above the cedar hedge at the foot of the garden. As she fixed her stare on the silvery light, her eyes took on a dangerous sheen. She was in control again.

To hell with this veil of tears, she said to herself. It’s fucking revenge time!

She dragged the slimy salmon from its waxy paper wrapping, slid it onto a glass cutting board and hit the play button on the first plan that had shot through her brain. Wow! She was out of the land of the dead and right in the kill zone. It felt good. She smiled as she fast-forwarded to the part she liked best. Wacking off the goddamn salmon’s head. But this time, as she lined up the knife, which was now raised over her head, she saw Andy’s face twisted in terror. How ridiculous he looked, twitching upper lip, eyes bugging out, teeth chattering like crazy. She chuckled.

Riga Blanca (Page 2)

“What’s the matter honey, cat got your tongue? No last words?”

“Whoa, Paulette,” he blubbered. “I can explain…”

“Too late for that, pal. Just say your prayers.”

Then the gasping-for-air sound he made as the knife found its mark. God, she loved that!

“Serves you right, you cheating bastard!”

Her body jerked involuntarily as the knife sliced through the salmon’s gill and came to a stop against its backbone. The crunchy sound hit her like a blow. She white knuckled the edge of the counter to steady herself. Caught up in the violent undertow of her emotions, she felt buffeted by the ocean currents of her kitchen.

With one ear she listened for the usual clomp, clomp, clomp of her husband’s footsteps, her signal to put on the smiley face. Well, there’d be no smiley face tonight, she thought as she eyed the magnetic knife rack. Which one would she choose? The pointed fish filletter with its serrated edge, the triangular carver, the inch wide slicer?


The whir of the overhead garage door stopped her dead. He was home. Boy, was she ready for him! A new rush of anger invaded her brain. Her hands balled into fists. How many times had she seen Dancing in the Dark? Not waiting for an answer, she replayed the opening scene. There she was at forty, mentally wearing a green hospital gown, sitting next to heavily medicated Martha Henry in the prison psych ward. Picture-perfect-façade–wife, Martha, was telling the story of how she had killed her cheating husband. And did he ever deserve it! God, what a movie! Well, Paulette was luckier. No psych ward for her because she wouldn’t get caught.

She moved towards the door, automatically checking her reflection in the hall mirror. No showstopper, but she’d made sure she hadn’t let herself go. Sure, she could lose ten pounds, but who couldn’t? She fluffed her hair. God, what was taking him so long? Maybe he was offing himself with carbon monoxide and saving her the trouble. Wouldn’t that be nice. Her brain tripped and stumbled and came to a stop. Her muscles slackened, her shoulders slumped. Rage had exhausted her. Yes, there he was, clomping up the steps. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp.

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