cover image The Conjure-Man Dies

The Conjure-Man Dies

Rudolph Fisher. Collins Crime Club, $15.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-00-821647-4

The reissue of this 1932 novel should help Fisher (1897–1934) get the wider acclaim he merits for writing the first mystery novel populated solely by Black characters. NYPD police detective Perry Dart is drawn into a baffling homicide case after N’Gana Frimbo, a Harvard graduate who worked as a psychic, is found dead with a bloody head wound in his Harlem home by two prospective clients. They become suspects, along with several others who were waiting for appointments with Frimbo, including drug addict Doty Hicks. Dart discovers the unusual murder weapon, a club made from a human femur, and is intrigued by Hicks’s apparent motive—the belief that Frimbo put a spell on his brother, Oliver, that’s slowly killing Oliver and can only be broken by Frimbo’s death. Fisher tosses in plenty of red herrings and subtly planted clues, along with self-referential humor. (At one point, Dart notes that in books, “It’s always the least likely person.”) The clever plot will resonate with golden age fans. (Jan.)