At last Valentin St. Cyr has returned in Fulmer’s latest novel, Lost River. Having left Storyville, the heart of New Orleans’ particular brand of vice, pleasure, and the birth of jass, St. Cyr has also removed himself from a dangerous occupation as the King of Storyville’s right-hand man, living off the grid for the last three years with longtime love Justine, a former Storyville sporting girl.
The couple has endured their share of murder and mayhem in Storyville - the Black Rose Murders, the day-to-day perils of a place that specializes in vice of every kind from sporting houses to gambling and a brisk trafficking in illicit drugs, with the usual violent fallout for those who frequent Storyville.
Valentin and Justine settle into a more domestic life outside the place where they have encountered every kind of threat. The detective is working as a PI for expensive local law firms who clean up after their messy and intemperate wealthy clients. The King of Storyville, Tom Anderson, has recently gone into a decline while Valentin pursues a more normal existence. Once vigorous and dangerous, Tom Anderson is getting older, his health no longer that of a young man, his best and wildest days behind him.
Somewhere in New Orleans, a predator senses opportunity and a plan is set in motion. A gentleman is shot in the chest with a .22, his dead body found on the carpet of a local madam’s place of business. Another body is found in a crib in one of the more dissolute areas of Storyville, a fringe place. That body receives little notice, carted off to the morgue with other random evidence of daily violence in such a place.
But when a second man of quality is shot near another popular sporting venue, not only are the locals upset but also the wealthy gentlemen who take their pleasures in Storyville after successful business engagements. The bodies bear similar marks, yet another suggestion that this is the work of one man. As the bodies pile up, Buddy Bolden, the man with the magic horn who started the dynamic jass movement in New Orleans, has awakened from his mental fog in a distant hospital, St. Cyr on his mind.
Linking the disparate parts of an intricate plot together, Fulmer’s Storyville comes alive once more. St. Cyr is conflicted, drawn back to Storyville, knowing only someone with his particular skills can make sense of the events wreaking havoc in Storyville. Justine watches as Valentin is seduced back into the life they have left behind, fearful that next time St. Cyr won’t be so lucky. St. Cyr’s arch-nemesis, Captain Picot of the local police department, sits like a fat spider, waiting for St. Cyr to make one fatal mistake.
In this tale of greed, ambition and murder, a gradual pattern evolves: Storyville on the brink of disaster, St. Cyr its only hope. Even though the King of Storyville, Tom Anderson, cannot ask for the detective’s help, he is relieved when St. Cyr returns to Storyville, in spite of unexpected pitfalls that nearly trap Valentin. Beneath it all, we can hear the moody blues and ecstatic high notes of musicians whose music is the very heart and soul of Storyville, past its glory days or not. Fulmer and St. Cyr never disappoint.