New Orleans, 1919 is a city filled with racial tension and fear. A serial killer is on the loose, leaving Tarot calling cards and promising not to strike where jazz is playing. The factual scene is set for Ray Celestin's powerful and atmospheric debut where the hunt is on for the killer.
Each central character has a strong and distinct voice and a particular interest and take on events. They're a richly diverse cast. Two cops, one with a secret, struggling to find any leads, the other a former cop just released from prison who lines up with the Mafia. The most entertaining character for my money is a mixed race Pinkerton's employee. She's a secretary desperately seeking a break to become a detective. She's obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and adds an often humorous and very different dimension to the tale.
Place and time are well defined and there's a real feel for the hustle and bustle of the city. It's one dominated by various tensions and the diversity of culture comes across really well. Voodoo, Mafia, racism, sexism and the integration of groups from different backgrounds all play a part in an exciting and original story which romps along with a real sense of urgency.
Ray Celestin captures the atmosphere of fear and mistrust really well and this is truly a fast paced and gripping read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will follow this author with interest.
My thanks to Pan Macmillan for an advance copy of the book via Netgalley.