The Axeman's Jazz

Julie Smith, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (341p) ISBN 978-0-312-06295-8
It's a steamy August in New Orleans and a murderer has borrowed the name of the Axeman, a serial killer who roamed the city in 1919. The modern-day Axeman has strangled a young woman and stabbed an elderly man, beside whose body a teddy bear is found. The letter ``A'' is scrawled near both corpses in lipstick and in blood. Both victims, it develops, were members of 12-point recovery programs modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous; the killer may be using the groups' anonymity as a shield. A most appealing heroine, Skip Langdon, first encountered in 1990 Edgar nominee New Orleans Mourning , is now a homicide detective assigned to the Axeman team. Risking her life, Skip must get close to suspects, among them beautiful but ditzy Di, a New Era devotee; the very angry Alex, ``a walking testosterone bomb'' who writes self-help books; Sonny Gerard, a stressed-out second-year medical student; and Missy, Sonny's overmothering girlfriend. With an acute ear for New Orleans speech and a sharp eye for the city's social stratification, Smith keeps the reader's heart palpitating to the end of this mystery of unusual depth, which leaves Skip in love, confident she's a good cop and triumphant over social-climbing, tradition-bound parents. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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