"The house music came up amid a swirl of curling smoke, painted lips, and the blush of cleavages, as glass tinked and women laughed all sultry and wicked, a kind of jagged jazz all on its own."
It is the tone that comes across most strikingly in David Fulmer's new novel, The Blue Door, even from the beginning. The Atlanta-based author is used to setting the scene for mystery, as is evident by the success he had with his multiple-award-winning Valentin St. Cyr series. His 2002 work, Chasing the Devil's Tail, won the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel. With The Blue Door, Fulmer leaves St. Cyr and Storyville, New Orleans, for ex-boxer Eddie Cero and 1962 South Philadelphia, "the world's biggest jukebox." Cero is rough-and-tough around the edges, a self-described "Guinea" with a passion for good rhythm and blues. A welterweight, he steps out of the ring and into the life of a private investigator, under the tutelage of former cop Sal Giambroni.
Eddie Cero soon cracks open a cold case of murder and intrigue, one that affords him plenty of time with a smoky black jazz singer named Valerie Pope. Eddie's remarkably sharp for a guy who spent a decade getting punched in the head, and he's able to illuminate aspects of the case that lazy or duplicitous cops had overlooked.
The style and voice are familiar and easily could have crossed into cliché, but Fulmer retains his own view, and the story is page-turningly inviting, if not ultrafresh. Eddie himself is a curious and interesting fellow, and even hardcore fans of Valentin St. Cyr should not find anything lacking.
Music and race play a large part in Fulmer's dingy world and his memorable catalog of characters, but everyone is obscuring some truth. There are preachers and prostitutes, mobsters and musicians, "coloreds," Creoles, sexually active teens and a guy named Bink. Still, the scene is the most notable part. The place is almost palpable. The music is soft and alluring, and a coppery hint of blood hangs in the air, like the jazz that preceded it.
David Fulmer. Sat., Jan. 19. 7:30 p.m. Wordsmiths Books. 141 E. Trinity Place, Decatur. 404-378-7166. www.wordsmithsbooks.com.
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