A phantasmagoric murder mystery that wails, chants, laments, and changes shape as audaciously as the mythical beings populating its narrative.
It's six years after Hurricane Katrina, and, though floodwaters have receded, New Orleans, as depicted in this boisterously ingenious debut novel, is neck-deep in malaise, its surviving citizens struggling to recover their collective mojo. Among these is a Creole busker named Jude Dubuisson, who, as the book begins, is glumly content to collect spare change from credulous tourists through his supernatural gifts for locating missing objects. The hurricane and its aftermath compelled Jude to hide his true powers under the proverbial bushel until he’s beckoned to take part in a secret card game featuring some of the city’s most powerful and dangerous demigods, including the treacherous vampire Scarpelli, a fallen angel known as “Wings,” and the voodoo high priest Papa Legba. The game takes a turn when Jude goes unconscious after being dealt a hand of five blank cards. When he awakens, Jude finds that one of the game’s participants has been murdered. Soon, everybody else taking part in the game is either murdered or about to be; other potential victims include a beguiling young hoodoo apprentice, a zombie jazz trumpeter—and Jude himself. For a first-time novelist, Camp shows adroitness in weaving the real-life exoticism of present-day New Orleans with his macabre alternate universe that’s almost—what's the word—supernatural. (Among the unique characters attending a burial service for one of the murder victims: a centaur, a hairy giant, and “a fat, brown-skinned man with the head of an elephant.”) Things only get weirder and more intense from there, but the engaging style, facility with folklore, and, above all, impassioned love for the city its characters call home keeps you enraptured by the book’s most chilling and outrageous plot twists.
One hopes for more of Camp’s dangerous visions to spring from a city that, as he writes, “is a great place to find yourself, and a terrible place to get lost."