It is 1938 New Orleans. William Fletcher, prize fighter turn private investigator, is mulling over his coffee at the local dive. Business is a bit slow since Negro investigators can only take on Negro clients. In walks Bill Storm, a thug Fletcher worked with a bit back in New York fifteen years earlier. He asks Fletcher to find his daughter, Zella, who he has not seen in as many years. Knowing the dangers of taking on a white client, Fletcher only agrees to poke around. Using his numerous contacts in the lower echelon of New Orleans society, it takes Fletcher less than an afternoon to find Zella. However, when Storm’s dead body is discovered in a park the next day, it is Zella, fearing for her life, who offers Fletcher a job, as her bodyguard. Storm’s murder is only the tip of a deadly iceberg engulfing two rival crime syndicates.
The Red Storm a debut novel by Grant Bywaters, who himself is a licensed private investigator, introduces two engaging characters in Fletcher and detective sergeant Brawley, Fletcher’s police buddy. The ancillary characters are engaging as well.
The writing is a bit stilted, alternating between 1930s pulp mystery vernacular (‘gats’ and ‘dames’) and current lingo. The author also felt compelled to describe every building that Fletcher entered. Totally unnecessary. The plot and action move along nicely, while sometimes a bit far-fetched. Fans of gritty New Orleans mysteries, such as Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead especially, might enjoy the historical aspect of this mystery. In general, a pleasant read and a reasonable first effort for the general mystery lover.