Throwback Thursday: Reviewing a Reissue
What do you get when you combine a mystery with an unlikely heroine and jazz music? Rhode Island Red, a Nanette Hayes Mystery.
Nanette Hayes is a tall, intelligent, bald, African-American jazz saxophonist playing tunes on the street for whatever cash she can get. When her live-in boyfriend dumps her (again), she worries about how she’ll make ends meet. And to top it off, another street musician insults her playing. But when Nan lets another musician (Sig) flop at her place, she wakes to find him dead in her livingroom. The man may or may not have been an undercover detective. But if he was, why is there $60,000 stuffed inside her sax? the local police don’t look too kindly on Nan, so she strikes out alone to find out how she’s connected to two murders and what the strange words “Rhode Island Red” mean and she has to deal with the boyfriend who wants to get back together, and an ex-con who’s obsessed with jazz while she’s at it.
This is gruff and gritty in the way that’s perfect for a novel about jazz. And it IS about jazz. It features a unique sound, with Nanette improving solo, just as a musician would. There is a rhythm to the story but there are twists and turns that come on unexpectedly but are in keeping with the tone of the story.
I’ve been looking a long time to find books that capture the spirit, the tone of a piece of music. Finding one that featured jazz is a huge bonus for me, enjoying jazz as I do. And Charlotte Carter really does capture jazz music, as a mystery story, and she’s created a great instrument to tell her story. Nanette Hayes is intelligent but also street-wise. She works from instinct; she knows how to play them and when to deviate and try it differently. She is a literary detective version of Thelonius Monk (which is appropriate given that the chapter titles all seem to be titles of Thelonius Monk songs). Though I found it just a little strange that there were so many allusions to Monk when Charlie “Bird” Parker features as prominently in the story as he does.
I really liked how ‘different’ this book was and yet managed to be a relatively traditional who-done-it mystery. Nanette is a character we can stand behind and root for as she has to use her wits and street smarts to survive, unlike so many of the amateur detectives who are either ex-cops/ex-military or rely on friends inside the police force for help.
I really look forward to reading the other two books in the Nanette Hayes series and am very interested to see if they keep up the jazz themes.
Looking for a good book? Rhode Island Red, by Charlotte Carter, is a fantastic mystery and beautifully combines a mystery story with the themes and groove of jazz music.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Rhode Island Red
author: Charlotte Carter
series: Nanette Hayes Mysteries #1
publisher: Open Road Media
ebook, 172 pages