Dead Man’s Blues
Author: Ray Celestin
Christopher Ragland
Published 2016 by Recorded Books
14 hours, 35 minutes – Unabridged

dead mans bluesIn Chicago in the 1920s, Al Capone ruled. Gangsters, speakeasies, tommy guns, basement distilleries, and bombs were the order of the day. At the same time, jazz was coming into full flower, with the potential to integrate the races through their mutual love of the music and the scene it engendered. This wasn’t just Capone’s Chicago; it was also Louis Armstrong’s. In the midst of everything, there were the Pinkertons: employees of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, battling crime and corruption … and sometimes falling prey to it themselves.

As Dead Man’s Blues opens, it is the summer of 1928, the city of Chicago is sweltering under a heat wave, and three different seemingly unrelated investigations are about to get under way. Longtime professional partners Michael Talbot and Ida Davis are Pinkerton detectives, hired by a distraught upper-crust mother to find her missing daughter, a young woman with a fortune to inherit and a taste for Chicago nightlife. Jacob Russo, a would-be cop who is settling for working as a crime-scene photographer, encounters a dead body that brings back personal memories and spurs him to do a little independent sleuthing. And Al Capone himself has summoned one of his best fixers, Dante Sanfelippo, back from New York to try to finger the traitor he knows is in his ranks. But Dante has secrets of his own, secrets that could get him killed.

Thus the scene is set for a period mystery, one in which three separate strands of story gradually converge and then get braided up into one. It is a serviceable crime novel – enjoyable enough, but not really a standout. Celestin includes enough historical detail for a plausible setting, but character development takes a back seat in favor of plotting. Christopher Ragland tries to differentiate between characters with different accents, and with pitch changes between men and women. However, his Southern accents in particular are jarring and seem mostly inappropriate, and his rather shrill portrayals of the women characters took this listener right out of the story.

Listeners with an affinity for the period, especially those with an interest in the history of jazz and/or the Capone organized crime empire, probably form the best audience for Dead Man’s Blues and its possible future sequels.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.