The opening tableau—contract killer Dixie Ray Chavez standing beside the body of ex-bootlegger Luis Martinez’s girlfriend Linda Blanc, whose heart gave out while Chavez was working her over with an electric iron—is only a curtain-raiser for the feast of violence that marks Martinez’s falling-out with aspiring counterfeiter Santiago Compasso. Stung by Compasso’s treachery, Martinez has vanished into the bayous with the plates that took a crooked engraver six months to perfect, and Compasso has responded by declaring war on everybody who might conceivably lead to Martinez. Also on the hunt are Sgt. Israel Daggett of the Negro Detective Squad; Father James Maldonar, bearing news of Martinez’s dying mother; and Martinez’s concerned ex-partner, gambler Wesley Farrell (Cat-Eyed Trouble, 1998, etc.). As if that isn’t enough promise of mayhem, a search is also on for faithless Albert Chenier, who ditched his small-town ladylove Marta Walker back in Texas and is willing to do just about anything to avoid a reunion. Two females will be kidnapped by two unrelated criminals, but it’s the male animals who are most in danger of extinction in sweaty, heavy-drinking 1940 New Orleans, since Dixie Ray Chavez really seems to like killing folks, and Martinez doesn’t seem to mind either. Look for a high body count, a whiff of Fifth Column subversion, and a pair of final surprises you ought to see coming a lot more clearly than Chavez can see his prey.
Another turbulent period valentine in which everybody is constantly asking obliging bartenders about everybody else, and nobody pays for a single drink.