Empire of Sin by Gary Krist
This new book by author Gary Krist chronicles the twists and turns of life in New Orleans round the turn of the 20th century. The book takes into account two murders, the growing up of the grandchildren of former slaves, and centers on the period between 1890-1920. For anyone familiar with Krist, his writing is penetrating, historically grounded, and gets you right into the center of the action with clarity and wit.
The early part of the book looks at Detective George Long and his investigation of the murder of Joseph and Catherin Maggio, Italian immigrants who ran a small grocery story. Immediately we find the junior detective and the senior detective (Long) coming up with different scenarios concerning the person who committed the murders. Yet, the one piece of evidence that was still puzzling to them was a chalk message that was found earlier in the day with the words, “Mrs. Joseph Maggio is going to sit up tonight just like Mrs. Toney.” The clue was to a Tony Schiambra who had earlier been murdered with his wife in their bed, and they too were Italian immigrant grocers. Krist brings us into this case and the discovery of some more details that keeps the readers coming back for more.
Alongside the elevation of violence in a place like New Orleans was also the growth of jazz. The playing of jazz music became a haven for very public and behind the scenes violence to take place. The short career of Buddy Bolden is a an example of the growth of such a vibrant music scene entwined with a violent ending.
Krist keeps the reader engaged and reading for the whole way through.
If you are interested in the early part of New Orleans, jazz, and the sinister violence that took place in the city, you will enjoy this book.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.