Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bloody Blades and All That Jazz

“It is no easy matter,” wrote one Victorian-era minister, “to go to heaven by way of New Orleans.” Indeed, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Louisiana’s largest and best-known city was a hotspot for hedonism and crime, a place where order, wealth, and sophistication struck an uneasy balance with saloons and bordellos, rampant lawlessness and municipal dysfunction. That balance was severely upset, though, right after World War I ended, when a mysterious serial murderer known as the Axeman began to prey on New Orleanians. Or, specifically, to prey on Italian grocers in the Crescent City.

Ray Celestin’s debut novel, The Axeman--published last year in the UK, but to be released in the States on September 1 by Sourcebooks--captures all of the mystery and fear associated with the Axeman’s 1918-1919 rampage. To that, it adds the stories of three separate and engaging investigators, all fictional and all wishing to expose the killer and terminate his bloody activities. As I write in my review of the novel, posted today on the Kirkus Reviews Web site:
Celestin wastes no time pitching readers into the Axeman investigation, complete with political connivances, surreptitious informers, gang rivalries and wild reports of suspicious characters abroad at the time of the attacks. (“People wrote in to say they had seen Negro men flying through windows, eight-foot-tall Indians, Slavs with horned heads, dwarves, Chinamen, Creoles who disappeared in a puff of smoke, or banshees fluttering between rooftops.”) There’s talk that the assassin is actually more than one person; that he’s black; that he’s Italian; that he might’ve begun his rampage long before 1918; and that he could be one of the shockingly many city residents once relegated to the state insane asylum. … The crime scenes—with their bloody axes, suggestive tarot cards left behind and doors locked from the outside—attest to the Axeman’s interest both in confusing police and inciting alarm in the city’s populous.
I invite you to read my full critique of The Axeman here.

1 comment:

Fred Zackel said...

American Horror Story had the Axeman a season or so ago. Great fun. Get the DVD (or whatever) and enjoy.