(My review on goodreads)
Padura packs a lot into this large novel.
He traces the course of Trotskyś exile, first the ¨internal exile¨ in the frozen wastes of Kazakhstan, then to some relatively peaceful time in Turkey, then on to Norway, France, and finally to Mexico. And every step of the way he was placed under restrictions, with deep suspicion, by the host governments, and under constant threat and occasional attack by the Soviet security forces or by local Communist parties. The picture that emerges is that of a chastened man, regretful of his role in the violent suppression of the Kronstadt mutiny, and incredulous at the brazen lies told by the Soviet government and (possibly) believed by rank-and-file communists.
We see how his eventual murderer, Ramón Mercader, was recruited and trained for his mission over a period of years, and how the infiltration into the Trotsky inner circle was carried out. (Surely that is not a spoiler - we all know Trotsky was murdered on the orders of the NKVD, right?). Not until near the end of his mission does Mercader begin to have doubts about the many lies he has been told, and begins to see that he had been willfully blind.
Finally, we are shown the repression and narrow limitations placed on intellectual activity in Cuba in the 70s and 80s, and the terrible hardships of the 90s.
Maybe the most surprising thing to me is that Padura was able to write this novel and have it published and not get into very hot water with the Cuban government. He was actually awarded the Cuban National Literature prize in 2012.