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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 11/2020
  • 9781947915985
  • 386 pages
  • $18.95
Open Ebook Ebook Details
  • 11/2020
  • 9781947915992
  • pages
  • $8.99
Paul Martin
Author
Killin' Floor Blues: A Music & Murder Mystery
Paul Martin, author

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

In the depths of the Great Depression, father and son musicologists John and Alan Lomax make several eye-opening—at times menacing—journeys through the Jim Crow South. Assigned to record pioneer blues artists for the Library of Congress, they visit plantations and penitentiaries, rural crossroads and bustling cities. During their travels, they encounter a series of bizarre killings. Among the victims are country blues giants Charley Patton and Robert Johnson, along with singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. The police show little interest in investigating the deaths of these seminal black performers, so the Lomaxes decide to look into the murders. They learn that the crimes are the work of a single deranged killer, and as they come closer to identifying the madman, they become targets themselves. Their discovery of who committed the murders, and why, carries with it the threat of imminent death.
Reviews
BookLife

This thriller, wrapped around a kaleidoscope of a travelogue, takes readers on a fantastical journey across the U.S. from the 1920s to the 1940s, through dozens of towns where African-American musicians turned their desperation into extraordinary music—and where a mysterious killer turns his desperation into a murder spree. Martin imagines Real-life musicologists John Lomax and his son Alan, who traveled the nation recording little-known African-American musicians, as detectives investigating the murders of blues musicians over more than a decade. Along the way, the Lomaxes encounter pioneering musicians who created timeless art amidst grinding poverty and racism.

The hunt for the killer referred to as the "scarecrow" runs like a thread through the book, but the real joy here comes from Martin's pitch-perfect evocation of African-American communities and the voices of their residents. He describes how "tin-roofed wooden shanties still drowsed beneath moss-draped live oaks, and the weatherworn lighthouse at the north end of the island still stood like an exclamation mark over Sapelo Sound." The music jumps off the page, as when the Lomaxes first hear Lead Belly: "his twelve-string guitar rang out like a small orchestra." Martin neatly limns the pervasive racism of the period, as when some white Mississippians, suspicious about the Lomaxes' activities, warn them off. These side plots take attention away from the main storyline, but are so rich in detail few readers will object.

Characters also come alive in the scenes. We learn about the brilliant Peetie Wheatstraw, racing his car: “I’m the Devil’s Son-In-Law an’ the High Sheriff of Hell, an’ they ain’t nothin’ faster’n my li’l baby here.” The Lomaxes themselves emerge as engaging characters caught up in their era, as when banker John faces ruined investors in the wake of the 1929 crash. The racial and economic problems neatly come together in a tense finale, the haunting music entwined with the injustices America inflicted on the community that created it.

Takeaway: This rich, atmospheric thriller follows musicologist detectives into the heart of the blues on the trail of a murderer.

Great for fans of: Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, John Szwed’s Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World.

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 11/2020
  • 9781947915985
  • 386 pages
  • $18.95
Open Ebook Ebook Details
  • 11/2020
  • 9781947915992
  • pages
  • $8.99

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