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by Greg Herren
Alyson Books, November 2007
258 pages
ISBN: 1555839665

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Friday, August 26, 2005. Iris Verlaine, granddaughter of shipping magnate, racist, homophobic, Percy Verlaine who is still alive and ruling his company and family even though aged and physically feeble, hires PI Chanse MacLeod to find her father who left home 32 years ago. Chanse accepts her large retainer, although he holds little hope of finding out anything.

Nature intervenes and within 48 hours, Chanse is forced to leave New Orleans. He spends several hours trying to get to Texas where he will stay with a friend for six weeks, until the worst of the flooding caused by the aftermath of Katrina recedes. When he returns, he discovers that Iris's body was found that Friday night, apparently the victim of a burglary at her home. The body disappeared along with so many others, but there was no doubt that she had been murdered.

Chanse goes to the Verlaine house to return the retainer check which he has not cashed and is hired by Iris's older brother to either find their father, or discover what happened to him. Chanse accepts, but he is torn. His city is a shambles. Many of his friends have gone, either temporarily or permanently. Luckily, one of his friends has cleaned his apartment, so he has a home to come to.

The police are short-handed and a six-week old burglary/murder has no priority. Chanse used to be an NOPD officer, and a couple of his friends, still in the department, have him deputized to look into the crime. Then the brother who hired Chanse is found dead, apparently having fallen off the roof of the family manse when drunk.

This southern gothic bittersweet elegy to a wounded city and perhaps a dying way of life, is the best book that Greg Herren has written to date. The quote from 'Suddenly Last Summer' gives us a clue as to where the story is going, and the first sentence, "It was six weeks before I returned to my broken city" gives us a clue that this book is partially autobiographical, since Greg and his partner did leave New Orleans the day before Katrina hit and did return as soon as they could. It is a tale of friendship and sadness and love and horror. It is on my list of top books of 2007 and I don't make lists.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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