cover image Thrown-Away Child: A Neil Hockaday Mystery

Thrown-Away Child: A Neil Hockaday Mystery

Thomas Adcock. Pocket Books, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-51985-8

Voodoo and murder mix with hot spices, gothic footnotes and a Cajun accent on the American vernacular in this irresistible narrative gumbo set in the Crescent City. Adcock (Drown All the Dogs) sends Neil Hockaday, his reformed boozer of a NYPD officer, to New Orleans to visit his black wife Ruby's family. While the criminal chronology may be as murky as the Mississippi, the atmosphere is lavish and very effectively applied. Ruby's family were poor once, driven from their house when an evangelical church seized their property. Her father passed away; her aunt died in New York of a heroin overdose; a young cousin turned to crime. The church meanwhile flourished. Now the cousin is wanted by the police as a witness to a murder, one of a number of deaths in which poor blacks are branded and slaughtered. Hock, stumbling into the middle of things, walks into the heart of the projects, is shot at by three masked men in a jeep, finds the cousin before the cops and exposes the racism and poverty that Ruby fled the fine city to forget. Although it's not quite clear when all the deaths happened, Adcock bares the New Orleans underbelly few tourists get to see, giving readers no time for a beignet break but offering several chilling moments to savor: a dead spirit summoned amid a frenzied religious tableau, a lost boy-child and a lost child-man. On the warmer side, there's a wild jazz funeral staged for the tourists, a streetcar ride along elegant St. Charles Avenue and Hock reconciled with more than just his new family. (Mar.)