1969, Bristol. Bajan ex-cop and reluctant private detective, Joseph ‘JT’ Tremaine Ellington is still trading in cash and favours, lending a helping hand to those too scared to go to the police or anyone trying to stay one step ahead of them.
Life is tough for JT, who is broke. It is about to get a lot tougher when he receives a telegram informing him of a tragedy that has unfolded thousands of miles away. Ellington’s sister, Bernice has been murdered. Ellington wants to make the long journey back to his home on the island of Barbados to pay his final respects and to settle his late sister’s affairs. To do so, he must accept a ticket from his shady cousin, Vic, on condition he travels to New York first, where Vic is building himself a criminal empire in Harlem.
Vic appoints the beguiling Evagelina Laveau to mind his cousin, along with his henchmen, Clefus Horton and a hot-headed Bajun, Pigfoot, a man always quick with his knife. JT soon discovers that Vic is the American end of an operation that stretches back to Barbados, and that Vic’s business partner is Conrad Monroe, the man responsible for the death of JT’s wife and daughter. And as JT finds himself embroiled in the world of drugs, bent law, voodoo and the bitter legacy of slavery, he must return to the island of his birth and face the demons of his past. (Goodreads)
I’ll be honest, when I was asked if I would like to read and review the book, I knew nothing of the author nor did I know that this was the third book in a series. This did not discourage me in the slightest, for many a series I have found by accident when reading the third or fourth book in a series. If this might concern you too, don’t be discouraged because enough information on the characters backstory is given in a natural and non-rambling way. You are given J.Ts motivation and relationship to some of the characters that you quickly become empathetic to his situation.
As the synopsis says, J.T is called back to his home in Barbados to settle family matters over the death of his sister. Unfortunately this isn’t a straight forward trip and he has to take two detours; first to New York and then to New Orleans. Since this book is set in the 60’s, both settings are (from my limited knowledge) in the midst and centre of the civil rights movement. J.T walks right into this and he quickly finds himself in a heap of trouble that seems to be all related to his cousin Vics’ dodgy dealings.
The plot is were Wright really shines because with each step that J.T takes into this dangerous world, the more you feel that he is being swallowed up and forced down a road he really doesn’t want to take. J.T has little or no knowledge what is going on and when he tries to get any answers, he is given half riddles about what Vic is really up to.
Things really do come to a dramatic head in New Orleans and one particular scene really gives the reader a sucker punch to the stomach. J.T comes face to face with one of Munro (J.Ts adversary) henchmen. In true villain style, Gatehouse seems to give him an ultimatum which really only has one choice for J.T Regardless, when J.T rushes to try to prevent another body being tallied against him, you feel the pressure and you want him to reach the destination on time.
The final third of the book is when the pieces all start to fit together and there only one side will walk away from this. Family secrets are uncovered and the truth about J.Ts role in this game is revealed. Everything wasn’t as if first seemed and it becomes clear that J.T was a pawn in his cousins game. Regardless that both Vic and J.T want the same thing, you could feel J.Ts hurt at being used in this way.
This is a highly enjoyable book and Wright has managed to capture the era of the 60’s very well. (Again from my limited knowledge from period drama’s and other media about the era). Something as simple as travelling to America is so different to what we are used to now, with the check in process at the airport described in such clear detail.
With each scene change, I could clearly picture New York, New Orleans and Barbados clearly in my mind. Yet, this isn’t the cities of the now, but that of an era on the cusp of dramatic change.
The only thing I found a bit difficult to get my head around was the way in which the dialogue was written. This is due to the many different accents that are represented in the book. As time went on, I found this easier to handle.
For such a dark book, it ended on sense of hope and when reading the authors note at the end, it is clear that he has more in store for JT. True, this won’t be until next year but I can’t wait to read what happens next.
This would be the perfect read for anyone who enjoys crime thrillers and I would really recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the show Luther, starring Idris Elba. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel that JT could be some relation to the TV detective for both characters seem to get drawn into situations that drag them into the darkness.
It really is a great period crime thriller, that takes you on a wild ride where you don’t know what is going to happen next. Not once did I correctly predict the outcome of any of the scenes. Give it a shot.
J T ELINGTON SERIES IN ORDER
1.5 Wendell Patin’s Pork Pie
2 All Through The Night
2.5 Restless Coffins