Danny Daniels & The Liar’s Den (My NOLA Mystery For Kids)


I know it’s been a while since I’ve written…almost a year…so I don’t know if anyone will even stumble onto this post. Life has moved on and while I’ve been back to New Orleans several times and am heading back this week for Mardi Gras, that chapter of my life feels distantly removed.

As I move forward, though, I’m still looking back and wrestling with what to do with My Year Of Mardi Gras. My original plan was to turn it into a memoir, though I haven’t found the heart or gumption to tackle that project since leaving. I’m not sure if I experienced and uncovered enough for a memoir, though I was talking to a local writer of some success recently who encouraged me to give it a go.

HOWEVER, I did manage to get a novel out of my experiences. While living in New Orleans I took several stabs at writing fiction, but nothing ever stuck. NOLA is a fertile literary field, but I also felt like I was competing with masters such as Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and classics such as A Streetcar Name Desire and The Awakening. There are a lot of contemporary writers much more accomplished than I vying to fill these shoes so the task was quite daunting.

And then one night…


Many writers and musicians report projects arriving fully-formed in dream, but this happens to me rarely if never. But one night in my waning months in New Orleans I had a dream about a homeless man getting his ears boxed by a menacing cop for biting his toenails while sitting on the sidewalk during a second-line, and later the homeless man turned up murdered.

That is certainly odd…and yucky, but seemed perfect fodder for early adolescent boys. I’d dreamed the entire plot (though I lost most of it and had to reconstruct it best I could later) and it reminded me of the silly and exciting mysteries that made me fall in love with reading when I was in Middle School. The idea instantly made sense. Children and young adults seem to read more these days, so why not target that ripe market rather than trying to compete with literary masters? This would be a perfect vehicle with which to channel my experiences and present the magic and wonder of New Orleans to a new generation through the not-yet-jaded eyes of a child.

I jotted down a few ideas but quickly abandoned the project as my dream slipped away. Last year, though, as I struggled to maintain my writing identity while working full-time again in Jacksonville as an Occupational Therapist I eventually went back to it. Inspiration gradually re-awakened and allowed me to finish the rough draft. Then, after some feedback, I reworked an improved polished draft.

I finished my edits in late September but it has set untouched since. I moved a few days later, which was much more of an ordeal than expected, and then the holidays hit, and so I’ve been in limbo lacking the time or courage to submit to agents and publishers—a grueling and soul-crushing process that only writers truly understand.

In the meantime, craving readers and feedback, I got the idea to start releasing chapters on this blog. So if anyone is still out there and reading this, please let me know what you think. For now I’ll shut up and present:



[Read more…]

Read Beans On Monday: The Clearing by Tim Gautreaux


The Clearing

by Tim Gautreaux

On the Book Riot podcast, which I listen to while driving between Florida and Louisiana, they frequently ponder and discuss how readers choose books, as though it’s always a deliberate process. As I try to market my own novel I’m also trying to crack this code though I know from experience that it’s often merely random chance. Such was the case with Tim Gautreux‘s The Clearing. Gautreux has been on my radar for a while, though it’s his book set in New Orleans, The Missing, that several local writers have recommended. Recently, though, I was perusing the stacks at McKeown’s Books & Difficult Music where my friend was sadly clearing her stock for the store’s close when I stumbled on a copy of The Clearing, her only remaining Gautreaux offering. At $1, how could I pass it up? It turned out to be a happy bit of serendipity.

Set in the once-virgin Cypress forests south of New Orleans in the decade after the first World War, The Clearing is a story of [Read more…]

Read Beans On Monday Special Guest Post: Jeremiah’s Scrapbook by Eric Sarrett, Reviewed by Margaux Fragoso


Jeremiah’s Scrapbook

by Eric Sarrett

Jeremiah’s Scrapbook begins in the wake of a disastrous labor strike that resulted in murder and then delves into all the misunderstandings and human failings that lead up to this kind of catastrophe. Sarrett’s novel is first and foremost about the way tragedy continues to resonate within the human heart; the way memory is both a gift and an ailment to the one who has loved and lost. Love changes the psyche, by both hardening one’s innocence and also paradoxically, by returning one back to a state of joyful renewed innocence. Anyone who is a fan of Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove, understands that love and memory are inseparable; love can’t exist without being filtered through the distortions of memory first.

Sarrett is a literary writer but he also knows how to tell a compelling story; he has an inherent understanding of the human dramas that drive the larger, more political ones. Jeremiah, the novel’s emotional center, is an ultra-conservative, retired West Virginia miner who Sarrett tells me is based off his own grandfather (Sarrett grew up in West Virginia). Like all forms of economic exploitation, mining is a complex form of trauma, both to its workers and their family members, and even to the police and reporters involved in the violent consequences of the strike that begins Sarrett’s book.

But like life, tragedy also occurs alongside comedy and comedy inexplicably thrives in states of sadness. The need to laugh when sorrow is at its strongest is one of the most universal human drives. Sarrett has a brilliant sense of how to balance these two extremes—some scenes are hilarious such as the refreshingly gawky and sexually naïve Matthew, an aspiring chef who is also Jeremiah’s grandson, awkwardly rejects the lascivious advances of a very drunk Carol, a reporter covering the strike. Carol is also drawn into romantic relationships with a police officer Christian Pike investigating the strike and with Junior, a married miner, and her indelicate bull-in-a-china-shop personality drives much of the emotional action in the middle of the book.

Watching the pain of community members and friends who are all affected by the recent government shutdown of 2013 and by cuts made on food stamps and unemployment, it might seem difficult to find common ground with ultraconservatives who think like Jeremiah—who believe liberals are babykillers that encourage kids to have sex (Jeremiah yells these views at Carol in a funny early scene at a diner). It’s tragic that Jeremiah fails to see how those whom he supports politically actually augment the suffering that his close friends and family experience. And it’s a comic irony as well: Jeremiah often appears foolish and vulnerable to the reader because of that foolishness, because he can’t see the paradox inherent in his own thinking.

It’s up to the sensitive reader in the end to try and reconcile the contradictions Sarrett raises through his characters. Though Jeremiah’s Scrapbook has the edginess of a psychological thriller, it is ultimately more: a love story, a rendering of the way love and memory unite in the mind to engender sentiment. This fast-paced but always thoughtful novel will give you plenty of time to make up your own meanings. It will continue to ripple through your mind long after you finish the last page.

fragoso_1_8_10_107Margaux Fragoso was born and raised in urban New Jersey. She holds a PhD from Binghamton University. Her poems and fiction have been published in Margie, Barrow Street, The Literary Review, and Big City Lit, among other literary journals. Her essays have appeared in The George Eliot Review and NPR and she has recently written a book review for The New York Times. Her memoir Tiger, Tiger has been named a best book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, The Washington Post, and Globe and Mail and has been published in twenty-five countries and translated into twenty languages, including Catalan, Romanian, Japanese, French, German, Chinese, Latvian, and Spanish. In September 2013, it made the Prix Medicis longlist and was listed for two other French prizes: The Fnac prize and JDD/France. She currently lives near New Orleans with her family and is working on a novel.




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Read Beans On Monday: Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite



by Poppy Z. Brite

For a previous Read Beans On Monday I reviewed Prime by Poppy Z. Brite, the second in a line of books detailing kitchen culture in New Orleans restaurants. Having picked up that book at random (it was the only one checked-in at the library), I found it a fascinating read and commented that I couldn’t wait to go back and read its predecessor: Liquor. I’m glad to announce this week that, if anything, Liquor is a superior prequel to the fascinating Prime.

The strength of Prime was its glimpse into the lives of those who work behind the scenes to keep the ever-present party in New Orleans alive, yet, being the second in this series, Brite felt the need to add a little of a mystery to the mix to keep the plot moving. Although intriguing and well constructed, I’m not a big fan of climatic brawls and/or gunfights that often work in movies but usually let me down in literature. Liquor, however, focuses on the process of the two protagonists, Rickey and G-man, working with a wealthy celebrity chef who’s taken an interest in them (an Emeril by any other name, I’d venture to speculate) and decides to invest in/assist them open an upscale restaurant called Liquor where the namesake is an ingredient in every dish.

Sometimes Rickey and G-man’s path to success seems a bit too fortuitous even though Brite tosses many obstacles in their path to push the narrative along, and the guidance of their benefactor take an uncomfortably dark turn near the end, but a few minor flaws in no way dampen my overwhelming enthusiasm for this tale. Plenty has been written about the extravagance and indulgence of the New Orleans upper crust, yet all of this revelry rides upon the backs of the cooks, servers, and musicians (and writer?! Lol) that barely make a living wage. Thus, Brite’s peek behind the swinging doors of those opulent dining rooms is priceless. I’ve never read Dinner at Antoine’s, but I’ve gobbled up Brite’s tomes on gastronomic goings-on like steaming plates of Oysters Rockefeller. I always was more a Grapes of Wrath than Great Gatsby guy, anyhow. The tribulations of the people interest me much more than the malaise of the privileged.

I can’t attest to how well Brite’s Rickey and G-man series will stand the test of time. The language isn’t poetically seductive nor the themes complexly intertwined. Brite‘s prose is, however, compulsively readable without feeling simplistic or spoon-fed, and the portrait he paints is vividly planted in the here & now. I don’t know what more I can say about these books. They may not be the best New Orleans novels I’ve read, but with their glimpse at the gears that keep this eternal party rolling, they strike me as perhaps the most New Orleans.




Read Bean On Monday: Neon Rain by James Lee Burke


Neon Rain

by James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke lives part-time in Louisiana and his most famous character, Dave Robicheaux, is an ex-New Orleans cop turned private detective who probes the dark side of the city and surrounding bayou. Burke has won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America and has a huge readership, churning out a book a year for nearly three decades including 20 Robicheaux novels. During this successful run Burke’s Cajun crime solver has become one of the most famous and beloved characters in mystery and crime fiction today. Upon learning about Read Beans on Monday a close friend recommended I read a Robicheaux novel, so, having observed how large this character looms in not only local but national fiction, I dug back to the character’s debut in 1987’s Neon Rain.

Unfortunately, the best I can say is this was not for me.

I’ve said before I’m not a huge fan of genre fiction, and Neon Rain hit all the clichés that turn me off: stylized violence that adds little to the plot, poorly drawn characters that are mere pawns to move said plot along, a convoluted plot that serves as an excuse to move the pawns from one over-wrought encounter to the next, and dialogue that would drop like a rock if ever uttered from real human lips.

I know this sounds harsh, and I’m not trying to be a snob—obviously there’s an audience for this work and I don’t want to trash anyone’s literary tastes. If you’re reading books, it’s a win for writers. Still, I had high expectations for Neon Rain yet ended up finding it a chore that I finished merely for the sake of this blog. When I reviewed The Axman of New Orleans by Chuck Hustmyre, I said that although not my taste I found plenty to value in the work. It had it’s flaws, but I genuinely enjoyed reading it. There was enough depth  to pull me along plus it had the fascination of true crime origins. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same here.

Robicheaux so iconic a character that I expected to uncover something truly unique. Instead I encountered all the standards of the genre: tortured ex-military—check; self-destructive alcoholic that manages to, despite his tortured inner dialogue, subtly make slow suicide through liquor seem masculine and ruggedly romantic—check; painfully emotionally unavailable so that vague, beautiful younger women can’t resist trying to fix him—check; tormented good guy under gruff, violent exterior—check; a maverick who can’t help but antagonize authority while wielding his own freely—check; lives on a houseboat—check. (This last one puzzles me the most. Why do so many detectives live on houseboats? Do they meet up at different marinas and have hard-boiled private eye conventions?!)

At least light fare like the DaVinci Code offers a clever puzzle for its stock characters to pontificate about in starched sentences while unwinding it in entertaining if unbelievable fashion. In the end, I’m not even sure what this book was about. It started with Robicheaux pulling the body of a black prostitute out of a bayou on a fishing trip. It is out of his jurisdiction (he is still an active cop when the story begins) but, being the noble rebel, he can’t stand by while local authorities ignore her death. Asking questions, though, leads to confrontations  with the New Orleans underworld, dirty NOPD cops (though his excessive force is excused, which I find frightening), Iran-Contra style conspirators, the CIA, the mafia, and Robicheux’s own brother, though none of the connections quite made sense. And I’m still not sure what this poor black prostitute had to do with any of them?!

Perhaps the beginning was the wrong place to start in this case. Some day I may pick up a novel later in the series and give it fifty or so pages to win me back. Obviously there is something worthwhile here to carry Dave Robicheaux through 20 books. Tin Roof Blowdown in particular was a much-hailed post-Katrina novel, addressing the storm through crime fiction–a different take. Otherwise, I may just have to accept that this isn’t my cup of tea shot of whiskey (with a beer chaser in a dive bar until sunup.)




Read Beans On Monday: Geaux Local–Exploring New Orleans Beyond the French Quarter & Living Like a Local


Geaux Local: Exploring New Orleans Beyond the French Quarter & Living Like a Local

by Eric Sarrett

Rather than reviewing a book this week, I’m sharing a bit about the New Orleans guide that I recently made available on Kindle. You may wonder why, beyond trying to financially support this blog, I chose to write a book for New Orleans tourists when there are so many guides already out there, many of which are exhaustive and comprehensive, having been compiled by publishers who have resources that dwarf my one-man effort to encompass the Crescent City; but the fact that these other guides are so detailed and impersonal is the point. In the Information Age when more content is uploaded in a few hours than created in all of human history up to this century, exhaustive resources can be, well, exhausting. Too much information, too little knowledge.

I’ve purchased such typical guides myself and found  I seldom use them, becoming overwhelmed by an avalanche of information that describes but doesn’t discriminate. I don’t want to know every option, just the best options. Thus, with Geaux Local, my goal is to highlight certain restaurants, bars, and activities that I feel will make for a great experience for New Orleans visitors who are either new or have been a few times but want to dig deeper. Granted, I don’t highlight the only places where you might have a great experience, but if you’re new in town I feel confident that if you follow this advice you will most certainly have a richer experience and discover New Orleans at a level that goes beyond the cursory ‘Big Easy’ clichés that hotel concierges are programmed to recommend. To accomplish this I offer enough options to give readers a choice, but not so many that you are overwhelmed into inaction. Geaux Local is written in a conversational tone, providing advice and recommendations as if you has a close friend in town to narrow down your choices and give insider tips to help you make the most of your time.

However, although recommendations are part of this book, I go beyond the where to the what, when, why, and how to help visitors gain a better understanding of New Orleans and feel comfortable during their visit. More so perhaps than any other in city in the U.S., New Orleans can be as intimidating as it is alluring. It has a reputation for crime and corruptions, and part of its appeal is its quirky culture that includes rituals, social norms, and pronunciations that confound not only first time tourists, but returning visitors. Then there are the patchwork neighborhoods that almost function as independent hamlets  (at one point the city split into three municipalities trying to  cope with this diversity) whose names get thrown around in directions and conversation as if common knowledge, yet seem like Chinese to the unseasoned visitor. I address all these issues and more, such as when to visit to miss the biggest crowds but not the best food and music.

Geaux Local is the guide I wish I would have had when I first visited . . . and even before I moved here . . . for after decades of visiting there was still so much I didn’t know. I’ve only recently become comfortable with the neighborhoods and geography, still stumble over pronunciations for some of the more obscure streets, and continue to learn the peculiarities and unspoken social rituals. Thus I include things like neighborhood and pronunciation guides, advice on how to get around, and some tips to help you feel safe–for you’ll be more confident if you know where you’re going and how to get there.

As a regular visitor over three different decades and a current resident, I’ve gone through and understand what it’s like to approach this city from the outside. I know the questions you’re likely to ask as a New Orleans tourist, because I’ve asked them all myself. People who grew up here or lived here longer may know more about the city, but if you’ve never gone through the process of discovering it anew or are far removed from that experience it can  be difficult to relate to New Orleans visitors who are still both bewitched and bewildered by this unique place.

Below is an overview of the chapters and topics covered within:

I Job Application: Why You Should Hire Me As Your Guide

II How To Act Like A Transplanted Local

  • Why a Transplant?
  • Be Patient & Adjust Your Expectation
  • Dewes
  • Don’ts
  • Neighborhood Guide
  • Pronunciation Guide
  • How To Get Around

III Where To Eat That Locals Enjoy

  • Breakfast
  • Brunch
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Dessert

IV Where To Drink Alongside Local

  • Bars With Good Food
  • Bars With Good Music
  • Bars With Fantastic Happy Hours
  • Bars With a Great Local Vibe
  • 24 Hour Bars Outside The French Quarter

V Who To Listen To That Locals Dig

  • Living Legends
  • New Favorites
  • Up & Coming
  • Choose Your Own Adventure
  • Music Calendars

VI What To Do & See That Locals Enjoy

  • Book Stores
  • Brewery Tours
  • Coffee Shops
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Shopping
  • Where To Find Out What’s Going On
  • Ten Tourist Attractions Worth Paying For

VII What To Read To Immerse Yourself In Local History & Culture

  • Fiction
  • Non-Fiction

VIII When To Visit To Avoid Crowds & Blend In More Easily

IX Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

So if you’ve never been to New Orleans or have visited a time or two but are looking for expert guidance for your next adventure, I hope you’ll consider purchasing Geaux Local. For the same amount or less than you will likely tip your concierge or cab driver you’ll receive comprehensive advice and guidance from someone who’s been in your shoes. And if you are a local with an expert opinion of your own, feel free to purchase it and contact me with your 2¢–I love a good debate!




Read Beans On Monday: The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans by Susan Larson


The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans (Second Edition)

by Susan Larson

If there is such a thing as ‘truth in advertising’ it can be found in the second edition of The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans by Susan Larson, for this is a resource for the true booklover (casual readers need not apply). This handy treasure trove of information is a guide to all things literary in NOLA including a survey of the city’s entire literary history; addresses for sightseers of famous writers who once lived here; a date book for planning your literary vacation; a comprehensive guide to local libraries and bookshops; an extensive bibliography on books about the city and by local authors; and, for lagniappe, several vignettes from local writers such as history must-sees from a Tulane professor, the best places to write by the author herself, and ‘the sexiest places to read a book’ by, not surprisingly, the author of The Last Madam.

I read The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans from cover to cover for this review but, though there are some narrative parts, it’s more meant to be kept in your backpack or tote and pulled out when you’re wandering the French Quarter wondering where Faulkner or Tennessee Williams hung out or when in one of the fabulous local indie bookstores trying to decide what to read next. Larson‘s narrative on local literary history is the most ‘readable’ section of the guide, at times making me wish she would linger longer on some of the more fascinating periods as she strives to cram so much into so few pages, though the most impressive–and by far largest–section is Larson‘s bibliography of all things New Orleans.

Larson was a longtime book editor for the Times-Picayune and continues to host The Reading Life on local public radio, so her reading credentials are solid. Due to this lifetime of rabid reading, her bibliography stretches for 100 pages and covers fiction, memoir & biography, history, photography & architecture, children’s lit, music, poetry, and various other sub-genres. This is, you might note, the Second Edition, so while much has changed since 1999 the biggest event has been a little storm you may have heard about; thus the bibliography contains an entire Katrina section. Most books are followed by a short description to help you choose wisely, but, lest you fear being overwhelmed by too many choices, Larson begins each section by cherry-picking her must-reads.

While Larson‘s reading list is both daunting and impressive, I was encouraged to find that many of her must-reads are books I’ve chosen through my research and recommended via Read Beans On MondayLarson also discusses in detail how writers are drawn to New Orleans, speaking directly to this audience as a sort of advisor to the aspiring literary soul. As she described the magnetic literary appeal of the city, though, I couldn’t decide if I were part of a grand literary tradition or just an imitator lacking imagination?!

As I said earlier, The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans is the perfect resource for a book nerd such as myself to keep tucked in his backpack for those unexpected moments (though unfortunately I checked it out from the library!) Because of this specificity, though, I imagine the audience is limited. If you’re living in or planning to visit New Orleans, though, and are the type of person who puts your monthly book club offering off till the last minutes because you have five things you’re waiting to read, frequents local literary events and book fairs, or gets Book Riot updates in your Facebook stream and never misses an episode of their awesome podcast, then this is a must-have resource to help you embrace this fascinating city and make the most of your visit–or life–here.




Read Beans On Monday: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers



by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun is difficult to review because recent scrutiny has raised the possibility that this could be yet another work of fictionalized non-fiction falsely aggrandizing a flawed protagonist into a larger-than-life champion of justice, and it is difficult to judge a book you’re not sure you can trust. Dave Eggers’ portrayal of post-Katrina heroism meet government corruption and incompetence is certainly fact-based as human rights violations under a marshal law fervor swept the city; thus outrage rings true. Abdulrahman Zeitoun (Zay-toon) was a successful and well-known contractor in New Orleans whose civil rights were violated, as were those of countless others who were arrested without evidence, denied a phone call, and detained under execrable conditions in ‘Camp Greyhound,’ a chain link prison hastily constructed in a grease soaked parking lot used for parking buses. The maze of outdoor cells each held only a single portable toilet, forcing prisoners to sleep on the filthy asphalt while being harassed by guards for infractions real and imagined. Camp Greyhound has entered local lore as part of a systematic breakdown of government and citizen protections; however, recent events have tarnished the image of the chivalric hero that Eggers plucked from the flood waters and spun to national fame to draw attention to this atrocity, leaving many wondering if the author embellished his hero to suit his tale of good and evil. Few observers doubt the government deserves the harshest criticism for its handling of Katrina, but Abdulrahman Zeitoun (commonly called simply Zeitoun) has proven to be something far removed from the gentle soul portrayed in the book, leaving critics wondering if [Read more…]

Read Beans On Monday: The Axman of New Orleans by Chuck Hustmyre


The Axman of New Orleans

by Chuck Hustmyre

An axman loose in New Orleans brutally murdering citizens in their beds and the police don’t have a clue . . . or worse, don’t want him caught? This may sound like the sort of grisly serial killer fiction that springs from the imaginations of James Patterson or Patricia Cornwell, but this novel is actually historical fiction based on a series of unsolved attacks that terrorized New Orleans from 1911 to 1919.

I’ve said in previous reviews that I’m not a huge consumer of genre fiction, but I met Chuck Hustmyre at a recent Reading Between the Wines event sponsored by Fleur de Lit and was intrigued when he offered a review copy. A former federal agent, Hustmyre confessed to teaching himself to write by reading books from Barnes & Nobles. Kudos to his initiative, for he has gone on to have great success publishing countless articles, several screenplays, and books of true crime fiction including Killer With A Badge, a story of a killer within NOPD  for which, surprisingly, NOPD wasn’t completely cooperative in turning over records. When he stumbled upon the Axman Murders during research, he was intrigued by this seldom mentioned menace who has been described as the American Jack the Ripper (someone even sent a similar letter to local papers although it can’t be proved it was the killer or a hoax). His plans to write a non-fiction account, however, were thwarted when Katrina wiped out so many public records (though many facts are of public record such as the Tulane fraternity that printed a rebuttal inviting the axman to visit, promising to leave a window open so he wouldn’t damage the front door).

Writing The Axman of New Orleans as historic fiction, however, has its advantages. It allows the author to create two strong central characters, a brave but jaded cop and a relentless reporter, both of whose fathers died tragically–perhaps as part of the conspiracy that weaves through the story. It also allows Hustmyre to draw conclusions from informed speculation that could only be presented as conjecture otherwise. With this creative freedom, the author paints a picture of local police and political corruption that would be difficult to prove but is frightening in the hypothetical. It also allows him to center his story around the strongest suspect that emerged after the killings stopped.  Although involvement was never proved, the coincidences surrounding his life and death are intriguing, providing the author a firm anchor to ground his speculative tale.

In the end, the uncertainty of historical fiction is frustratingly enticing. This book may have lost me early if simply sensational and exploitative fabrication. If it were non-fiction, I would have vetted the reliability of the author and either accepted or rejected his thesis and moved on. With historical fiction, though, like ‘based on reality’ Hollywood movies, I find myself tormented wondering what is truth and what is fiction. It can be vexing but it keeps your attention, and Hustmyre does a great job keeping the reader engaged.

In fact, a more subtle title and cover may have done the book a service, for both seem to detract from the book’s craft. Although not glittering literary prose, Hustmyre’s language is stark and raw rather than histrionic as the cover and title may insinuate. Hustmyer obviously learned the lessons of idol Elmore Leonard. At times he can over-describe. His background in law enforcement provides great insight into  process but occasionally waxes so didactic that it breaks through the ‘fourth wall’ of suspended disbelief. The structure of chapters alternating between present-tense first-person and flashback third-person is confusing at first and sometimes makes it difficult to follow the flow of events. There are multiple victims, a growing stable of characters, and a complex conspiracy so it is difficult to keep it all straight. Although I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t one I’ll pick up and immediately read again, yet to fully fit the pieces together it warrants a second read.

Despite a few small flaws, though, I thoroughly enjoyed The Axman of New Orleans. It didn’t open my eyes or change my perspective on New Orleans like some of the great books I’ve read, but it’s also not dumbed down or insulting like so much easily digestible mainstream genre fiction. The climax packs an emotional and tragic punch that lands because the characters, while not wildly original, rise far enough above cliché to make you care, and the ending is satisfying. The ultimate reason I’m not a big genre fiction fan is that I nearly always feel let down by the ending (I was told I absolutely had to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo only to find it one of the most meandering, drawn-out, and ridiculous let-downs ever). I wasn’t blown away or left stunned, but nor did I feel cheated even though I felt like it was somewhat apparent where things were going. We knew the suspects, we just weren’t sure of their motives and connections to one another.

In the end, the strengths of The Axman of New Orleans far outweight its deficiencies. It is strong enough to appeal to a fringe crossover literary crowd and a sure thing for lovers of true crime, mystery, and serial killer fiction.