Fulmer returns to New Orleans' Storyville circa 1913 in his latest Valentin St. Cyr mystery. Although St. Cyr has been gone from the center of vice and pleasure for three years, a spate of related murders has thrown Storyville into chaos. Storyville has built its reputation on the back of Tom Anderson, the King of Storyville, who has ruled the area with an iron fist, controlling crime and excess, ensuring safety for those who would follow their various carnal interests, from sporting houses to saloons, gambling casinos to opium dens. So far the experiment has been successful and lucrative, Anderson able to pay off the appropriate people to stay in business, graft for politicians, extra money for the cops, everyone happy with full pockets until a series of random murders strike fear into the gentry who commonly reward themselves for hard work with an evening in Storyville. Now all that is threatened- the next victim could be any man of means.
The author knows this territory well, mining the details that make historical fiction so endlessly fascinating: the madams who run their establishments, skillful at finances and controlling overzealous clients, catering to every need, regardless of its outrageous nature... for a price; and the fringe areas, where the downtrodden avail themselves of whatever pleasure is available for a penny, the dissolute cribs where desperate women barely survive the life, victim to crime and drugs. Even in the lowest place there is always trade, sometimes rich boys slumming, taking advantage of the helplessness of the poverty-stricken. No, Storyville isn't all shine and glitter, such accoutrements providing a façade for a brisk trade in human depravity, where virtually anything can be had for the right price. And Tom Anderson is feeling the effects of age and his body's infirmity, not as quick to respond to challenges, Storyville a little frayed around the edges. His relationship with St. Cyr in tatters, Anderson must rely on the detective's history for setting right the imbalances of an often treacherous place, in this case the random murders.
Reluctantly, the Creole detective is drawn back to Storyville, much to his dismay and the fear of his lover, Justine, which shows itself in a quiet fury. Maybe this time St. Cyr won't be so lucky and walk away. Valentin is inevitably seduced, clothed in the familiar sounds and scents of Storyville like a well-worn suit of clothes, if a bit out of practice. He will need an edge in this case, Police Captain Picot, St. Cyr's nemesis, waiting for any opportunity to snatch his prey without the King of Storyville to protect the detective this time. Indeed, St. Cyr catches the scent of duplicity early, but the case is cluttered with so many bodies and a mysterious killer that it costs Valentin valuable time, placing Justine in unexpected danger in a chilling conclusion. Even St. Cyr's best friend, Buddy Bolden, resurfaces for a brief instant from the insane asylum where he has been committed, a sad fate for the man whose magic horn gave birth to jass. And through it all runs the allure of Storyville and the music that brings New Orleans alive with a hope and exuberance that can never be extinguished. Luan Gaines/2008.