Thursday, July 23, 2009



Author Ace Atkins has been making a name for himself in recent years with a series of sprawling, political-machination-filled novels, which don’t really register on my must-be-read radar. However, when Atkins originally hit the mystery scene, it was with a series of very cool ‘blues’ music related mysteries – a worthy companion series to Bill Moody’s jazz infused Evan Horne mysteries I discussed last week.

Crossroad Blues was Atkins’ first Nick Traver’s mystery and it's a great lead in to the world of blues music in which the mystery is immersed.

Blues is about the bottles, knives, and steel used to slide guitars, a purple-tinted roof above a juke joint, and the heavy, rhythmic thump of boots on a scuffed hardwood floor. It’s a world of honorable men and outlaws. Blues is emotion. Blues is reality.

But where in mystery fiction is a blues hero?

You can find him in New Orleans, Louisiana, living in a battered 1920’s warehouse or playing harmonica at JoJo’s Blues Bar in the French Quarter. His name is Nick Travers, an ex-New Orleans Saint turned blues historian at Tulane University. And this time he’s headed deep into the heart of the blues – the Mississippi Delta.

In August of 1938, the most celebrated figure in blues history, Robert Johnson, was murdered in Greenwood, Mississippi. Some say a jealous husband poisoned him at a juke joint. Others believe his death had something to do with selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Almost sixty years later, a college professor disappears into the Delta while following rumors of nine unknown Johnson recordings. Travers leaves Tulane to track down the professor. Clues point to everyone from an eccentric albino named Cracker to a seventeen-year-old hitman who believes he is the second coming of Elvis Presley.

From the neon-slicked streets of New Orleans to the kudzu-covered trails of modern Mississippi, join Travers as he unravels the greatest mystery of all blues lore.

I enjoyed each of the Travers mysteries more for the settings and the blues lore than for the mysteries themselves ~ not an uncommon occurrence when dealing with mystery novels set in specific areas of interest ~ but would love to see Atkins come back to the character again in the future.


David said...

I always intended to read this one. I picked it up years ago when I was in a blue band - but never got around to reading it.

The sad thing was, that the book (autographed copies at that) where in a giant liquidation warehouse selling for a few measly coins!!!

I am going to have to dig it out now and read it.


pattinase (abbott) said...

This is one of my daughter's favorite writers and I need to get my hands on one of his books.