A reluctant shamus gets in deep with a crooked cop, an escaped convict and a two-faced woman he can't get out of his mind.
Philadelphia, 1931. Jersey Leo, who tends bar at a speak-easy called The Ink Well, becomes the toast of the town after rescuing a kidnapped boy. Jersey, also known as "Snowball" because he's an albino with blond hair, learns that notoriety can have a downside when Aaron Garvey contacts him with a desperate plea. Jersey was Garvey's only childhood friend. Now that he's on death row for killing a cop, Garvey invites Jersey as the single permitted visitor for his last meal. Naturally, there's a catch. The site of Garvey's crime is a joint he owns called the Red Canary, run by his gal Myra Banks, who also dates all the way back to Jersey and Garvey's childhood, when Jersey had a crush on her. Because Jack Reeger, the dead cop's violent partner, is hassling Myra constantly and bleeding her for protection money, Garvey fears for her safety and wants Jersey to "send him a message"—that is, kill him. Jersey demurs but can't resist checking out Myra at the Red Canary. Once Jersey lands on Reegers' radar, he becomes a target as well. And the whole situation gets a major shake-up when Garvey escapes from prison.
Jersey's second caper (Sugar Pop Moon, 2013), which finds room for several quirky characters in its crannies, is hard-boiled enough to remind readers of Hammett and Chandler.