The Axeman by Ray Celestin
Reviewed by Keith McCoy, Somerset County Library System
Originally Submitted to Library Journal
A rainy stretch in New Orleans right after the Great War, and a serial killer stalks the city. The method is an axe, and the conceit is a tarot card left behind. A shunned police detective gets saddled with the case, while an ambitious young black girl with a fondness for Sherlock Holmes pursues him on her own, in hopes of starting her detecting career. The Mafia has its own interest in finding the Axeman, too. Celestin’s first novel has loads of noir atmosphere, and the characters are engaging enough. But the mystery is slow to build, especially with three detectives and three viewpoints, and a teenage Louis Armstrong is only a tagalong to the female PI. It’s based on an actual unsolved case which covered seventeen months rather than the two months written about here. The ending comes at the reader from all directions, like a Gulf storm.
Verdict: A must for fans and denizens of the Big Easy, and perhaps for those who like true crime from the past retold as fiction.