Review of DARK END OF THE STREET by Ace Atkins
William Morrow, 2002
Music historian Nick Travers tracks down legendary blues musicians for a living so he isn't too surprised when his friend Loretta asks him to find her brother--except that her brother has been rumored to be dead for years. Still, Nick can't turn down a request from Loretta and heads from New Orleans to Memphis where Clyde James had last been seen. What he finds in Memphis, though, is a woman being held captive, recent murder, and a political campaign with Dixie Mafia money coming out the seams. Nick will have to call on more than music detection skills to survive this mess--let alone help things come out right.
Author Ace Atkins (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of Ace Atkins novels) writes convincingly of an American south where the old and new rest uneasily with one another, where race relations are personal, and where dreams of the confederacy still motivate men to arm and train. Atkin's characterization is rich and full. In addition to Nick, the sociopathic Perfect Leigh and Jesse Garon are especially well drawn and fascinating. The rich background of the blues, of southern cooking, of friendship, and of the quiet desperation that marks so many lives makes DARK END OF THE STREET feel terribly authentic.
There is a lot going on in this novel--as Nick slams from trouble to trouble, barely ahead of a bullet. At times, the plotting can get a little confused. At other times, Nick's plots might be a little too cute. Still, Atkins's strong writing can make even the most unlikely plot turns feel natural. Watch out because DARK END can grab you by the throat and kick you in the rear.
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