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by Kenneth Abel
Signet, March 2002
368 pages
ISBN: 0451205456

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New Orleans: a city filled with heat, humidity, and relentless rain. There廣 also a deep layer of political corruption. This is the city where Danny Chaisson lives and works. He used to be an Assistant District Attorney for the City of New Orleans but he now works for political boss and state senator, Jimmy Boudrieux. Like his father before him, Danny is a bagman for Jimmy.

One day, Jimmy廣 chief legislature aide, Lucas Clay, tells Danny to meet with a known gunrunner, Dewitt Foley, to pick up a package. Danny asks Foley to meet him in Claude Raymond廣 restaurant. Claude廣 restaurant serves a combination Creole and Vietnamese food since Claude廣 wife, Phuong, is Vietnamese. Claude and Phuong met years ago during the Viet Nam War and were married in Saigon. Claude, Phuong, and Danny are good friends and Danny feels right at home in their restaurant.

Dewitt is in trouble and asks Danny to help him out. He gives Danny the papers and an attach case with four guns in it that Lucas asked Danny to pick up from Foley. Danny is going to deliver everything to Lucas, but not before he takes a look at the papers. The papers are evidence not only against Jimmy Boudrieux but against Dewitt Foley as well and Foley needs Danny廣 aid.

After discussing the papers, Danny says goodbye to his friends and exits the restaurant. As he leaves he notices two white men, who look like detectives, and two black teens enter the establishment. As Danny approaches his car he realizes that he forgot something and returns to the restaurant only to find Claude, Phuong, Foley, and the two black teens murdered. Thinking it廣 not safe to let the police know that he廣 a witness, Danny dials 911. He keeps the phone off the hook to insure that the police will investigate the call.

Danny delivers the papers and attach case to Lucas Clay, but in doing so, Lucas and his boss, Senator Jimmy Boudrieux, now know that Danny has seen too much. They now need to get rid of Danny, just like they got rid of Danny廣 father years ago.

Danny soon discovers that his life is in danger and it廣 now a race to prove Jimmy Boudrieux廣 guilt before Jimmy can have Danny killed.

So begins a story of political corruption, gunrunning, and racial tension that fills this Louisiana city.

Kenneth Abel takes us deep into New Orleans politics and New Orleans itself.

COLD STEEL RAIN has a multitude of plots and people that all lead the readers to the climatic end of the story. Every detail in the book is interwoven together to give us a fast paced, high-tension story filled with wonderful characters. Of course the star of this novel is New Orleans. Abel describes the place so brilliantly that we see how the city itself creates the characters that live there. In a way, New Orleans forces the individuals, who live in its streets to act the way they do.

This is Abel廣 third book with his fourth to come out later this year. Each of his books has been critically acclaimed but COLD STEEL RAIN is his best so far.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, March 2002

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