“Ray Celestin skillfully depicts the desperate revels of that idiosyncratic city and its bizarre legends in his first novel, THE AXEMAN.” — The New York Times Sunday Book Review (Marilyn Stasio, Crime Columnist)
The Axeman stalks the streets of New Orleans…
In a town jammed with voodoo and gangsters, a sense of intoxicating mystery often beckons from the back alleys. But when a real serial killer roams the sultry nights, even the corrupt cops can’t see the clues. That is, until a letter from the Axeman himself is published in the newspaper, proclaiming that any home playing jazz music will be spared in his next attack.
Such brass invites a chase, and not just from the cryptic detective running the show. The New Orleans of 1919 is a place like no other, where the corruption runs deep and the bourbon rolls smooth, and control of this city is a prize only a fool would give up. Based on a true story, The Axeman brings to life a vibrant, volatile New Orleans filled with as much desperate ambition as utter fear.
The eponymous killer of Celestin's strong debut has thrown the people of 1919 New Orleans into a panic as he slaughters one family after another. Three tormented investigators with very different agendas are in pursuit. Det. Lt. Michael Talbot, a white man, heads the official manhunt while hiding his illegal marriage to an African-American woman. Luca D'Andrea, a corrupt white ex-cop just released from prison, has been assigned to the case by the local Mafia boss, who's disturbed that the murders are heightening police alertness. And 19-year-old African-American Ida Davis, assisted by her musician friend known as Lil' Lewis Armstrong, is trying to demonstrate that she can be more than a secretary at the local Pinkerton office. Celestin deftly weaves the rich history of New Orleans into the multiple plot lines while highlighting racial prejudice and political corruption that are more appalling than the Axeman's crimes. In sum, this is a tasty bowl of gumbo with a side of dirty rice.