Reynard had hired some old white-haired shill to stand out front of the bar in a tuxedo and drag in the out-of-town pigeons. He thought it gave the place some class, the same way some people try to dress up toilet lids with fuzzy covers.
New Orleans jazz cornet player and occasional detective Pat Gallegher rides again in Wet Debt (which is, I think, the last of the series). Wet Debt delves into one of my favorite sub-genres – the very cold case, resurfacing from long ago.
The bar where Pat plays and lives takes up half of a building. His boss, Shorty, is having the other half renovated. But work stops when workmen discover a desiccated mummy buried in the concrete floor. It’s a man, and judging by the clothing he’s been there since the 1930s. Those were the days of Prohibition and gangsters, high times for New Orleans’s bottom dwellers.
Shorty’s in a hurry to get the property ready for a new tenant, but the police are in no hurry to close such an old mystery. Could Pat do him a favor, and look into it? Pat agrees.
His investigation leads him to a place where the city’s upper crust and its dregs once crossed paths, in the speakeasies of old. An old newspaper photograph displays two criminals in the company of two beautiful young society girls. Pat knows one of the criminals, a recently deceased gang lord with whom he had an uneasy relationship. Now he’ll learn how that man came to New Orleans in the first place, and what he did to earn his power. The dead man in the concrete was never greatly missed, and nobody alive could possibly worry about his murderer being unmasked… Or could they?
Not quite as suspenseful as the previous books in the series (though not without suspense), Wet Debt is an enjoyable and atmospheric cold case story. Cautions for the usual. I’m going to miss Pat Gallegher.