The Axeman's Jazz

The Axeman's Jazz - Ray Celestin

So, this is my RL book group's latest choice, which we will discuss at the end of this month. I am delighted to say that this was much better than the last book.


The Axeman's Jazz is a combination of historical fiction and police procedural set in the New Orleans on 1919 and based on the real crimes committed by "the Axeman". 


I will not give a lot of details about the factual background to the story - and I would advise any prospective readers to not look up the facts before reading the book - because knowing some of the details will spoil the reading experience some. 


The story of the book sets in when several attacks have been committed in New Orleans and the police cannot quite see any connections. There is a lot of conjecture which the author intelligently bases on the socio-economic situation of the city at the time and especially on the tensions between different groups of people  - particularly Irish and Italian immigrants. 


The other foundation of the story is New Orleans connection to music. In particular to jazz, which is a vital element of the Axeman's terror: with a seemingly random murderer on the loose, a letter by the self-proclaimed "Axeman" is published which announces the date that the next murder will occur, but also warns that anyone who is playing or listening to jazz music on that night will be safe.


I thought the book has a great premise and the choice and setting of the story was really interesting. However, the book struggled a bit. 


I enjoyed reading about the historical tidbits but the actual mystery, or rather the police investigation (which had another couple of subplots) left me bored. So, I had to look to the second team of unofficial investigators to carry the plot. This, however, only succeeded in part because as much as I liked Ida, the Holmes-obsessed lady detective, I just could not get my head around Louis Armstrong being involved in the murder puzzle. 


All in all, it was a fun read, but the historical part was more entertaining than the murder mystery.