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by John Florio
Seventh Street Books, August 2014
223 pages
ISBN: 161614887X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Most people consider Jersey Leo to be a freak. The son of a black father and a long-gone white mother, he is, sadly, also an albino. And his problems in life compound. He lives in Philadelphia during the Great Depression (1931) and Prohibition and about the only work he can find is at a fairly well-hidden small bar called the Ink Well.

From the time he was born, he learned to trust and care about three people most of all. First, his father who raised him after his mother deserted both of them a former boxer called "Champ" and a decent man. Second, Aaron Garvey who tried to shield Jersey from bullying by students and teachers alike all through school. And third, Myra Banks who was their schoolmate and also needed protecting because she had a clubfoot.

That's the background now the mystery. Garvey escapes from prison while on his way to be executed for the murder of a cop and, still swearing that "I ain't what they think," turns to Jersey for help. Of course Jersey hides him the best he can, but the gang of crooked Philadelphia cops are determined to find Garvey, basically because the murdered cop was part of their crooked gang. So Jersey becomes a target of the cops because he was friends with Garvey. And so does Myra. In the meantime, Myra has become a chanteuse in a fancy nightclub owned by a mob-type person named Mr Lovely. She bought her way into the club by borrowing $20,000.00 from Garvey and has no way to pay it back, even though Garvey now desperately needs the money.

Jersey's loyalties are unwavering even in the face of mounting evidence that that loyalty is misplaced. Isolated from nearly all of society because of his looks, he plows ahead doing the best he can to keep his friends safe and to resolve the situations.

BLIND MOON ALLEY is amazingly retro. The time of the novel is evoked constantly by the music Jersey hears, the car he drives, the criminal substrata that he has to live in. John Florio has a wonderful sense of Philadelphia in 1931 and has done well echoing the detective novels of that time, flawed characters, gritty dialogue, general hopelessness, and all.

This mystery is definitely meant for those who know and love the early detective fiction of the United States. I recommend it as well to anyone who would like to see what an author who has done his research can do.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, August 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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