Swimming in the muddy waters of New Orleans jazz culture, circa 1908, private security guard and sometime detective Valentin St. Cyr roams the sordid streets of Storyville, the city’s infamous red light district. Piano man Jelly Roll Morton makes a cameo appearance, enlisting St. Cyr to investigate the mysterious deaths of a series of small-time musicians who once played in the same band. St. Cyr’s boss, the café owner and politician feared for his power over all of Storyville, in league with the corrupt precinct police, tries to derail the investigation. Adding to St. Cyr’s woes, he is caught in a romantic triangle between two beautiful “soiled doves” while he stalks the night streets brooding and sinking into depression.
The character of St. Cyr lends interest to this unusual private eye outing. The detective is a light-skinned half-Italian Creole, who passes as white for convenience. The racial politics of turn-of-the-century New Orleans, unlike that of any other American city, forces St. Cyr to juggle relationships with allies, informers, and enemies of varied racial hues. Stylishly written and solidly researched, Fulmer’s tale plumbs the depths of the violent, drug-soaked yet vibrant milieu where American jazz was born. 2nd in series.