Series: Storyville #1
Author: David Fulmer
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Year: 2001
Not New Orleans--but Storyville--noir...and all that jazz!1907 Storyville. Cultures, races, and religions more often blend than clash in a rich gumbo only New Orleans could serve up. But trouble brews. In this red light district, prostitutes ply their trade whether in cramped cribs or elegant houses of French ancestry, while music surges through its streets and helps harmonize the light and dark elements. King Bolden rules the Storyville brass with his golden coronet and his gift--jasser--to blow a riff on the city's music that pulses with new rhythms and notes. But the real King of Storyville is Tom Anderson, the district's powerful property owner and political fixer, who employs Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr to dig into the deaths of a string of prostitutes. Each victim is found with a black rose. Is a serial killer leaving a calling card? Is King Bolden losing his mind as he stretches his genius to its limits? Why is an elderly priest sent away under care?
Chasing the Devil’s Tail is the first book in Storyville series by David Fulmer. The series follows the adventure of Valentin St. Cyr, private detective, in New Orleans. In the first book, Valentin must solve the black rose murder that’s going around the red light district in New Orleans. Several sporting girls found dead with a black rose found near their bodies. Since it’s happening in the Storyville, the nickname of the red light district, Tom Anderson the King of Storyville employs Valentin to solve the mystery. The police suspect King Bolden, a jass musician infamous for his bad attitude who is also the oldest friend of Valentin. Valentin then get caught up in between his instinct that tells him that King Bolden is not the murderer and the evidence showing that King Bolden always conveniently be at the wrong place and the wrong time.
Set at 1907 in New Orleans, Chasing the Devil’s Tail has an intriguing premise. I’m a sucker for detective story, let alone one that sets in such interesting era and place. This book sets at the time when Jazz is so fresh from the oven that it’s still known as Jass. It also introduces several characters based on real people such as Buddy ‘King’ Bolden, Thomas ‘Tom’ Anderson the King of Storyville, and the others. The description of the setting and the music scene in the Storyville are so vivid that sometimes readers will feel like they are taken back to the old New Orleans.
However, what makes up for good atmosphere in this book doesn’t do well with the pacing and the plot. The writing is so focused on building up the world, the pacing of the story is so slow. There are many times when Valentin is investigating around the district only end up with no additional clue for the case. It was frustrating for me to read. I wish that Valentin would be more objective and putting aside his friendship with Bolden for a while. I wish that he had the mindset that everything is possible and everyone could be the murderer. Then maybe the case would be solved faster and his friend would have a better ending.
I’m not sure what the author is aiming though. Is he trying to highlight the conflict between Valentin and Bolden or the Black Rose Murder. Because in the end, the conclusion to the murder didn’t satisfy me. But if the author is trying to center the relationship between Valentin and Bolden, I think he did a good job. He shows us a glimpse of Valentin and Bolden’s childhood and Valentin’s past. Especially how he ends up being Storyville King’s employee.
All in all Chasing the Devil’s Tail makes a good first book for a series. The book sets up the world and introduces us to prominent characters of the series, which is unusual for me. I have never read mystery series that need such introduction. I’m looking forward to see what the series has to offer in the next book.