Delving into the musical culture of Memphis, Tennessee, and the historical anomalies of the Civil Rights era, Turnerís novel features the return of Detective Billy Able and his new acquaintance, Patrol Officer Frankie Malone. While Able has come back to Memphis in hopes of reinstatement with the department after a failed love affair, Officer Malone is hoping for a promotion, anxious to become a detective. Neither expects to be caught up in an investigation that sets Billy afoul of the department and in danger of ruining his reinstatement or complications that will reveal ugly skeletons that can ruin careers.
When two blues musicians die suddenly, apparently of natural causes, both Malone and Able are struck by the strangeness of those deaths, not to mention their proximity. Red Davis and Little Man Ray are legendary musicians, both fallen on hard times, both followers of Santeria. Officer Malone sees evidence of spells in their squat, a possible connection confirmed in Ableís mind by the looks of terror on both their faces.
Billy Able has strong emotional ties to the city, loving its idiosyncrasies and complexities, the familiar landscapes that define his world. But neither Billy nor Frankie is blinded to the opportunities for corruption inherent in a place with such a colorful history, from Beale Street saloons to the corridors of politics, from do-gooders to scam artists, entrepreneurs to the drunks who seek shelter in local agencies like Robertís House, where both dead musicians found temporary respite. This is the heart of Klan country, the place where Martin Luther King was assassinated and Jack Ruby met his fate before the eyes of shocked television viewers.
Billy Able has enjoyed a long-term friendship with ex-ballplayer Augie Poston, a local celebrity determined to send Red Davis off with the respect due a man of his talents. Unfortunately Poston, a wild man at the best of times, seems to have gone off his meds, obsessed with a project about his motherís death in the Civil Rights era. Without any real authority to investigate either the musiciansí deaths or the crime Augie hopes to expose, Able pulls some strings to read the files from the time of Augieís motherís death, reluctantly informing his friend that nothing suggests foul play. Things go from bad to worse in their relationship, and Augie grows more irate and combative. But before Billy can make peace with his old friend, Poston is murdered.
Unfortunately for Able, his proximity to the murdered men and refusal to mind his own business puts him squarely in the sights of the detective on all three cases, Don Dunsford. Near retirement, Dunsford is building a strong case against Billy. If nothing else, Ableís interference can ruin his chances of rejoining the department. And thatís only the beginning. The rest of the novel is salted with colorful characters complicating every aspect of the murders, from Senor Sergio Ramos, a Santero priest, to civil rights attorney Sid Garrett, sponsor of Robertís House and a community activist with strong ties to the city, not to mention an unnamed journalist working with Augie on an explosive book.
Between the suspicious deaths, the long-held secrets of the Civil Rights era, the casting of Santeria spells and Ableís unofficial meddling in an investigation before he has the authority, Turner takes her protagonists on a wild and dangerous ride where the boundaries are unclear and the good guys hard to tell from the bad. Though plot entanglements sometimes get in the way, the author successfully captures modern-day Memphis, where old grudges still swelter, and the unrest of the years when the old South was challenged and Martin Luther King met his end. History and chaos collide, old prejudices still chafing, only the indisputable value of iconic music drawing foes and friends together in a moment of forgetting. Meanwhile, the partnership of Malone and Able survive their first duet, no doubt sharing future adventures in Memphis.