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by Andrew Cotto
Ig, June 2012
214 pages
ISBN: 1935439499

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Caesar Stiles has been struggling to achieve a sense of belonging ever since he left his family home in northern New Jersey while a teenager. His father was an alcoholic; his older brother used Caesar as a punching bag. After his other brother, Angie, was killed by an oncoming train, the entire family fell apart. When his mother died, Caesar inherited the family home; but he has never been able to live there. Instead, he bought a home in Brooklyn, the only white man in an African American community. He's renovated the building, but he still has no ease in his soul about living there. Mostly, he dedicates himself to his job as a bartender and chef at a local pub. He notices that the owner, "the Captain," seems to be engaged in some illegal behavior, but he just minds his own business.

One day a young French girl comes in to the bar and asks Caesar for his help in finding her brother, who moved from France to attend the local Art Institute. Jean-Baptist Rennet appears to have been a talented artist, but he only went to the school for a short while. It seems that he is now a victim of the drug scene and on the lam. In his quest to find the young man, Caesar also exposes the Captain's activities and finds himself having to deal with the return of his abusive older brother from prison. At times, the narrative has an almost poetic sensibility; yet, it has noir overtones and is quite spare.

OUTERBOROUGH BLUES is a beautifully written book, lyrical in its descriptive passages of the Brooklyn setting and melancholic about the struggles that Caesar faces. As Publisher's Weekly says, "Cotto's lyrical prose…shows a strong sense for character and place in a novel that reads like Raymond Chandler taking dictation from Walt Whitman." BLUES is Cotto's first work of crime fiction; I hope that this gem of a book finds an audience so that I can read this talented author yet again.

§ Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, January 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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