The Axeman’s Jazz, By Ray Celestin

Publisher: Mantle | Publication date: 8th May 2014 | Edition: Hardback (own copy)

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman

The Axemans Jazz

Excellent cover, perfect fit for this meaty crime story

A VERY gritty, meaty and twisty plot (or rather plots & sub plots) are contained under the cover of this special book. As I understand it, the writer of this book was originally inspired by a letter from a real serial killer nicknamed ‘The Axeman’, who was active in New Orleans around 1918-1919 – the rest of the story is mainly fiction. With three separate investigations going on, it took every ounce of my concentration to keep up! To summarise:

  • One was being run by Michael, a policeman in charge of the case, who has his own personal secret to conceal.
  • The second by the ambitious Ida, who worked as a secretary at the Pinkerton’s Private Investigation bureau (btw her best friend is Lewis Armstrong – later known as Jazz musician Louis Armstrong, and yes, it’s VERY plausible, as there are  true elements of his life are woven into the story)
  • And thirdly, Michael’s corrupt ex-partner, Luca, fresh out of jail and contracted by the local mafia to find the killer.

Despite setbacks, each of them strive to discover the truth and identity of The Axeman. And, although everything is connected is one way or another, they’re often not aware of the other’s discoveries as the body count grows in some quite ways. There’s a long list of suspects, plus, Michael’s department is full of corruption and back-biting. The poor bloke’s got a lot to contend with whilst trying to catch a seemingly demonic killer!

New Orleans obviously has unusual place names and surnames, then there’s unfamiliar Street names and even different food groups…I’m a little embarrassed to say that I found myself stranded on occasion and had to retrace my steps. Okay, I admit it, with the intense plot AND all these ‘new words’ I was completely lost there for a while! As you won’t discover who the ‘Axeman’ is until very near the end, I for one was relieved when everything fell into place. And very cleverly pieced together it was, too. It’s incredibly detailed with wonderfully descriptive prose, perfectly setting the scene with the music and racial tensions of the era within its pages.

I do feel a little more enlightened after reading this, as it’s a great read and I experienced lots of new things along the way. And I now know that ‘Chiaroscuro’ means: the contrasting effects of light and shade in a work of art (apparently). So there you have it. Although a few of my little grey cells died whilst reading this book, it was definitely worth it in the end.

Rating: 4/5



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