Harlem renaissance man Devil Barnett probes the death of two rising rappers.
The sublime sound of the seven-man group Dancehall Dogz, Jamaican with a touch of hip-hop, has taken the music world by storm, and the London group is living high in New York City. But their success threatens to come crashing down when two of the Dogz, Shogun and Man O War, are found dead in Harlem of decapitation and a drug overdose, respectively. Man O War’s uncle Livingston Holmes, a wealthy neighborhood real-estate broker, enlists the help of Ernest “Devil” Barnett, ex-CIA agent, owner of the popular Be-Bop Tavern and sometime sleuth (Blood Red Blues, 2004), in finding his nephew’s killer. Devil’s cool first-person narrative is interspersed with italicized passages that bring victims and perps up close. Never one to tread softly, Devil takes only a single day to visit the lawyer who crafted the group’s latest contract, the All-Star Rehearsal Studios, where the remaining Dogz are working on their new release, and the offices of Grooveline Records. Devil’s scorched-earth investigation unmasks slick Reverend Jennings of God’s Holy Tabernacle. Proving the Reverend’s guilt, though, is another matter that will require an extended game of cat-and-mouse.
Hayes still writes with a heavy hand, but his sophomore effort deepens the evocative portrait of his community and eschews mystery for a stronger p.i. model.