A saxophonist’s murder is only the first shot fired in a citywide warAll great blues musicians chase something. Raymond “Strong” Carlisle calls it “the deep sweet”—that perfect note that always seems to sit just out of reach. For decades he has made crowds swing, made women smile, and earned the respect of some of the greats. But as long as he strained for the deep sweet, nothing he did with his baritone sax seemed to matter. Chasing that fantasy has led him here, to lie in the rain beneath a sycamore, counting his bullet holes as he dies. The detective on the scene is Dennis Murchison, a white cop who has seen too many murders to be shocked by a dead blues man. As he eliminates possible suspects, he’s left to decide between a lowlife drug pusher and Toby Marchand—Strong Carlisle’s son. As the city heaves into violent frenzy, Murchison finds that answers hover like the deep sweet: just out of reach.
Corbett (The Devil's Redhead) again uses some of the traditional tools of genre fiction in bold new ways in his sharp and exceptionally poignant second suspense novel. The feeling of a community under siege in this case, a shabby but lively multiracial town called Rio Mirada, just north of San Francisco comes straight from Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, as concerned citizens and families trying to live decently come under attack from the forces of organized greed. There's a touch of Jim Thompson in the main villain, a hired thug calling himself Richard Ferry, who turns out not to be quite as detestable as he first appears. And Ross Macdonald might have created the head cop, a local detective named Murchison, who isn't as smart or as liberal as Macdonald's PI Lew Archer but nevertheless has aspirations to similar levels of achievement and humanity. The story begins with the murder of cantankerous black jazz musician Raymond "Strong" Carlisle, shot down in his front yard. Murchison and his racist partner, Stluka, have two suspects: Carlisle's son, also a talented jazzman, and a local gang member who is lucky enough to have a tough and resourceful mother to defend him. Corbett introduces such a large cast of characters in this sweeping narrative (including the cameo return of ex-con Dan Abatangelo from The Devil's Redhead) that some of them don't get enough time on stage. But the ones that do will linger in readers' thoughts for a long time. 4-city author tour.