Thursday, July 01, 2004

Uptown Noir

Blood Red Blues, by Teddy Hayes (Kate’s Mystery Books/Justin, Charles & Co. 192 pp. $12.99 paperback original)

From the sex and violence-soaked opening scene you know that noir is back with a vengeance. This is the first in a new series of mysteries set in Harlem featuring Devil Barnett, a former CIA operative who returns to the neighborhood after his father’s death.
Barnett’s plan is to quietly continue running his father’s bar, the Be-Bop Tavern, but when the police come calling in the form of Deke Robinson, a corrupt local politician, and ask him to help in solving the murder of a Japanese diplomat at another Harlem club, try as he might, he can’t stay out of it.

What does a horny diplomat have to do with Harlem real estate? Why are the Asian gangs so interested in his investigation? What does all this have to do with his uncle’s new romance? Barnett combines his CIA skills with his neighborhood connections to find out between dodging a decidedly homicidal attacker.

Along the way he has to deal with pimps, whores, informants, Asian gangsters, beautiful women and oh yeah, the cops. You can smell the whisky and cigarette smoke and hear the music. This is a hard-boiled but loving look at contemporary Harlem.

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