Valentin St. Cyr is back. The mysterious detective has returned to the District, thinking to remain uninvolved even after he accepts a case from his former employer: Tom Anderson, the King of Storyville. A wealthy shipping magnate, John Benedict, is shot and killed just off Rampart Street in the infamous twenty blocks of sin, decadence, gambling, sporting women and jass, the new music that is now raging across the country.
To avoid unnecessary embarrassment for the family, usually a murder of this nature is quickly hushed up, but Benedict’s daughter, Anne Marie, hires the moody and enterprising detective to pursue the matter courtesy of Tom Anderson: “Every time Valentin was turned loose on a case, the same thing happened… pandemonium.” Emotionally distracted by the last series of murders he solved, St. Cyr is still struggling for purchase with no intention of embracing his former lifestyle, but as the bodies fall, the case gets personal and the detective embarks on a mission of his own.
Tapping into the power structure of New Orleans’ wealthy, this mystery reaches beyond the familiar confines of the District, into a world more subtle and deadly than the obvious vice of Storyville. Its puzzle will lead Valentin into unfamiliar territory, where his natural talents prove no advantage.
The corruption in Storyville is endemic, rich with dirty little secrets, from the poverty-riddled shotgun shacks where everything is for sale to the uptown mansion, where racism, greed and ambition lurk beneath the sheen of gentility. No one is exempt from temptation or tragedy; the characters as varied and eccentric as the unique streets of Storyville: charlatans, drunks, hustlers, musicians who live for the jass that fills the night air, greedy madams, arrogant politicians, corrupt cops, sporting women and cutthroat criminals tempered by the occasional kindness of strangers.
The new players make their own rules: Anne Marie Benedict, daughter of the murdered man, with her own agenda and an eye for St. Cyr; Maurice Delouche, the Benedict family attorney; Charles Kane, another murdered shipping magnate; and Henry Harris, a robber baron with aspirations to the U.S. Senate, riding his touted racial intolerance to Washington. Into the mix comes the exotic Justine Mancarre, the sporting woman Valentin saved from a serial killer but left behind when he walked away from the District.
Fulmer perfectly captures the cauldron of discontent that rules the alleys of the night and the mansions where the wealthy indulge in legalized sin and corruption. There are endless tales in Storyville and through the elusive characters of the able St. Cyr, Fulmer writes with a deft touch of a world of wild energy and dreamy lethargy, a complex social structure, enterprising residents who carve occupations out of greed, graft and sin and the noble souls who rise above the fray, all soothed by the chaotic strains of jass. The author has found his métier, each St. Cyr mystery better than the last.