A serial killer is targeting residents of New Orleans. It is 1919, and the Axeman is being pursued not only by Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, but also by his nemesis, busted former corrupt cop Luca d’Andrea. Alongside, Ida Davis, a secretary to a private detective with ambitions to be a PI herself, brings in her friend Louis Armstrong to help her solve the case.
Celestin writes so well about the food and music of the city, as well as the communities and physical places, that it made me hunger to visit. This is quite an achievement when the story concerns a real life psychotic axe killer terrorising the population. The jazz, smoke, po’ boy sandwiches, Mafia, style, and corruption all went straight to my head.
He also explores the explosively segregated nature of the city, with different groups living alongside each other but remaining entirely separate. A very young Louis Armstrong provides a useful way for us to encounter some of the jazz, the poverty and the racial violence of the period. This is another historical crime thriller to have a real person in a fictionalised detective role (a similar one is Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder, which features Freud and Jung in New York in 1909). Based on a true story, this is a very satisfying historical crime mystery – I ate it up in a single bite and was ready for more.
Review by Bethan