Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke

Black Cherry Blues cover Black Cherry Blues is the third Dave Robicheaux novel and the second one I read. It starts out in the bayou of southern Louisiana. Rob is still recovering from the murder of his wife some time earlier. He’s quit his law enforcement jobs and runs a fish and tackle business way out in the sticks. His biggest concern is his adopted child Alafair (not by coincident Burke’s real life daughter who’s also a mystery writer).

An old roommate, once famous now fallen on hard times musician Lee Pugh, visits to enlist Robicheaux’s help. He’s overheard a conversation between two colleagues discussing a murder. Robicheaux isn’t interested, but after Lee begs him for help he intercedes with the employers of the two men. Next thing he knows, the two men threaten Alafair.

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Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Nairobi Heat coverA dead white woman is found outside Joshua Hakizimana’s house. Joshua is a bit of a celebrity. During the Rwandan genocide he was headmaster of a school, which he turned into a safe haven for Tutsis. The genocidaires respected him because they were his former students. Joshua is the public face of the Never Again Foundation which receives support from many people, some famous, others not.

The case lands in the lap of Ishmael, a black detective in a very white town, Madison, WI. The leads peter out quickly, the racial dimensions take over, the black police chief is under pressure to produce result. The Joshua’ fame doesn’t quite make up for the fact that he’s African and the victim was white and female.

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Red Planet Blues by Robert Sawyer

Book CoverA sci-fi hard-boiled detective story? I could imagine many ways in which this mash-up could go wrong. So I was a little reluctant to read it. Boy was I wrong. This story works at many levels. Like all hard-boiled detective stories, it begins with a beautiful woman entering the PI’s office. Alex Lomax, also known as “double X,” wonders about her because she is a “transfer.” That is, she’s transferred her consciousness to a new, mechanical body. I told you, it’s sci-fi.

The action takes place on Mars in a colony called New Klondike that exists under a large dome. Unlike most sci-fi cities on other planets, this is a scruffy, rough place, full of prospectors who are trying to find fossils of the early creatures that inhabited the red planet. The entire city is a private enterprise, so the cops only get involved if someone threatens the business. Hence Alex Lomax’s detective agency.

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