The Axeman’s Jazz was a highly entertaining read, with a good twisting plot. The book is set in New Orleans, in the year 1919. I would classify this book as a crime novel, but I would claim that this novel also falls under the category of historical fiction, despite being based off a true story. Ray Celestin uses the backdrop of the multicultural New Orleans to tell a well constructed detective story, with three people attempting to solve the mystery of the Axeman murders.
The shifting perspective between four characters is a great strength of this book. The Axeman’s Jazz is not only the story of one character, it is the story where four characters are involved in shaping the direction of the plot. Michael Talbot is one of the characters investigating the Axeman murders. Michael is a detective working for the police in New Orleans, who has secrets he would like not to become common knowledge. The character that is a complete contrast to Michael is Ida, who is a secretary who works at a detective agency.
Ida dreams of becoming a detective in the style of Sherlock Holmes and could not resist looking into the case of the Axeman murders. Ida is mixed race, so her story differs largely from Michael’s. New Orleans in this book has a race hierarchy, which puts Ida towards the bottom end, but she does come from background where she received an education and got a job as a secretary at a detective agency.
The novel provides a great atmosphere in re-creating New Orleans in the age of Jazz. The descriptions of the bars, clubs and brothels, enable me as the reader the understand the cultures and customs which were common in postcolonial cities like New Orleans. My main criticism is that one felt that Luca, the ex policeman with links to the Mafia, was a slightly underdeveloped characters. Apart from that the novel cam across as a well researched work of historical fiction designed to pull the reader in.
The Axeman’s Jazz is an entertaining crime novel that is interesting to read, but not too difficult to understand.