The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin

New Orleans, 1919. As music fills the city, a serial killer strikes…

This was yet another book I ordered without having read anything about the actual story. I liked the cover; the font is nice – it has a neo traditional element to it, the skull in the top hat drew me in and the title of the book itself promised brutal murders in a swinging, effervescent and bustling environment of New Orleans.

I already knew the history of the Axeman from my interest in mass murderers and from having watched American Horror Story: Coven (where Danny Huston plays the role brilliantly) and knew that no one has ever been convicted of the crimes so I was interested to see where the story went.

The story opens with journalist John Riley receiving a letter from the Axeman, stating that “on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy…every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing”. The tale then jumps back a few months to when the murders have just started, where we meet Detective Lieutenant  Michael Talbot one of multiple sleuths investigating the killings – the others being an aspiring detective and an ex policeman/mafioso.

As each protagonist has differing skill sets, resources and methodology they each approach the mystery of the killer from alternative angles. Resulting in you as the reader getting the whole story, but each protagonist only knowing as much as they find out themselves.

The way Celestin writes is incredibly beautiful, his scene description really aids your visualisation of the story. However, in some parts I felt it was held back somewhat, maybe he played it safe as this was his debut novel? Or maybe the editors had something to do with it.

That being said, it was a very good read. I enjoyed the story and the way the three main protagonist’s investigations played out, occasionally nearly intercepted each others, it kept me hooked.

This book was released in 2014 (I’ve not very good at getting books as and when they come out) and since then Celestin has released another in the series called “Dead Man’s Blue’s”. I have now added this to my ever growing “To Read” list – if that isn’t a good enough recommendation then I don’t know what is.

Favourite quotes from the book:

Food had always distracted Hatener, stopped him from brooding on a life whose unfolding had become dull, predictable and irksome.

She made her way along the spider’s web of streets and alleyways that radiated from the ancient wharves like Amsterdam canals…

…they held each other under the darkening sky, the two of them trapped in the wires of rain.

Between the warmth of the people inside and the cold rain on the street, a thick condensation had formed over the glass, making the world beyond seem nebulous and soft.

A blind had been pulled down over the solitary window, severing all connections with the world outside, encasing the place like a tomb.

…because a home wasn’t just somewhere you lived, it was somewhere you were happy to die.

Michael started at the marks her feet were leaving on the tiles – fleeting islands and atolls of warm condensation.

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