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by Richard Helms
Back Alley Books, April 2003
272 pages
ISBN: 0971015937

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Itıs the middle of the 1930s in New Orleans and itıs hot. Pat Gallegher, cool jazz cornetist, former gambler, occasional enforcer, and even occasional amateur detective, is in a spot of trouble. An acquaintance of Gallegherıs has been caught with his hand in a cookie jar. Trouble is, the cookie jar is really a money laundering scam run by the mob. They arenıt happy. Gallegherıs friend is scheduled for cement overshoes -- or worse -- and heıs got Gallegher to try to fix things. That puts Gallegher at odds with the local mob boss. Itıs a neat way of introducing several characters who become important to the real plot of this fine novel.

The real story is the discovery of an old mummified body unearthed during the destruction of a vacant office building next to the club where Gallegher works. The body is really old, maybe 70 years, give or take. Shorty, Gallegherıs boss who owns the property, wants his cornetist-cum-detective to sort out who the guy was and how he came to be buried in concrete to avoid delaying new construction. What happens next is unusual, strange and more than a little dangerous.

The novel is fast-paced and well-written with the gritty kind of straight-up dialogue one expects in noir detective fiction. Readers will notice echoes of Hammett here. Gallegher quickly becomes enmeshed in a task that builds tension because he hasnıt much time, and heıs caught between a cop, some independent thugs and local mobsters. On the up side, heıs being pressured by his main squeeze to join her in San Francisco for some dalliance and needed R&R.

Well, it all works out, of course. This isnıt the first Pat Gallegher mystery and it wonıt be the last, but thereıs no lack of mystery and action. For readers of the hard-boiled genre, I recommend Pat Gallegher and friends.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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