Dead Man's Blues

Written by Ray Celstin

Review written by Adam Colclough

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.


Dead Man's Blues
Mantle
RRP: £12.99
Released: August 11 2016
HBK

It’s 1928 Chicago, a time of guns, gangsters and scorching hot jazz. During a blistering heatwave some of the city's most important men are poisoned at a banquet, the body of a gangster turns up in an alley, and a famous heiress goes missing.

Tasked with finding the missing girl are Pinkerton agents Ida Davis and Michael Talbot, meanwhile 'made man' Dante Sanfelipe has returned to his home town to investigate the poisoning at the request of the biggest gangster of them all, Al Capone. Although their investigations are seemingly unconnected all three are drawn together into a deadly conspiracy.

Prohibition era Chicago makes for fertile ground for a thriller that digs deep into the slurry behind the gleaming frontage of the windy city. Ray Celestin keeps the action coming thick and fast in a brilliantly realised rendering of the roaring twenties. He captures perfectly the way glamour and squalor rubbed shoulders and sprawling hedonism mixed with cramped paranoia.

His central characters are fully rounded and the regular cameos from icons of the era including Louis Armstrong and Charlie Chaplin are skilfully handled, adding to, rather than merely garnishing the wider plot.

The most striking feature about this novel is the way Celestin writes about jazz, it provides both the structure for his narrative, and a means of examining the contradictions and moral panics prevalent in American society at the time. Jazz here is more than just a soundtrack; it is a powerfully subversive force that even those who play it, can't fully control.

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