For his second crime mystery novel, Celestin takes us to Jazz age Chicago. Louis Armstrong is transforming the cornet solo, and Al Capone largely owns the city, which is corrupt at every level. The novel opens with a gangster funeral almost Roman in scope, where the crowds are showered with blue petals from airplanes.
Three sets of unconventional detectives have cases that converge. Dante Sanfilippo is a New York booze runner returning to Chicago from exile in New York at the request of Capone, who wants internal gang troubles investigated. Michael Talbot and Ida Davis, agents at the Pinkertons private detective agency, are looking for a missing heiress. Jacob, a police photographer, is investigating a gruesome alley death, on his own time.
And so we are introduced to the several different worlds of the city. The diversity of the characters, in terms of race and class, gives us access to these. There is complacent old money, garish new money, smoky jazz clubs, dangerous meat yards, and lakeside views.
Ida and Michael will be familiar to readers of The Axeman’s Jazz (https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2015/06/06/the-axemans-jazz-ray-celestin/). Those who loved the vivid portrayal of 1919 New Orleans in that novel will be equally pleased with the 1928 Chicago of Dead Man’s Blues. You don’t have to have read the first one to read this – it can stand alone – but this is the second in a planned quartet, each set in a different city, so it is worth reading in order. Luckily we have both in stock!
Review by Bethan