“Chasing the Devil’s Tail” – David Fulmer

This intriguing book is the first for the author. It is a murder mystery set in New Orleans in 1907 with a Creole detective investigating the brutal murders of several prostitutes in the Storyville section of the city. The novel integrates real life characters (musicians Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton, photographer E.J. Bellocq) with colorful denizens who could just as well have been real.

The novel is infused with language of the time and expressions that are unique to the period. I did not stop to look up any of the words or phrases that were not “modern” so as not to interrupt the flow of the narrative. The descriptions of New Orleans of the period give a sense of feeling, the sensory images conveying a mood and a feeling of the climate.

In contemporary crime fiction and television and movies, we have become used to scientific applications, forensic testing, and computer analysis. This is all absent from this novel due to the time period. That being the case, the investigatory thread of the narrative relies on perception, intuition, and intellectual analysis. Therefore there are some sections that drag and the evocative description can not completely make up for it.

That being said it is still a remarkably entertaining piece with all the required elements necessary to become a series (which it has). I was fascinated with the historical nature of it. {I also enjoyed “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr and “Nevermore” by William Hjortsberg.) At the end of the book, Fulmer dedicates barely a page to the research he had done on the piece. By contrast, I had written a blog entry on another and far more famous novelist who dazzles us with his research acumen over eight pages. {Apparently this more famous novelist must use Google alerts because he found the entry and responded with scathing criticism of my blog entry. After I responded with courtesy, he turned around and thanked ME for MY civility. It was a completely ironic turn of events.}

I have another book by Fulmer, Jass, also in his series. I will interested in seeing if the crime investigation portion goes deeper than this first offering.


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