cover image The Blues Don’t Care

The Blues Don’t Care

Paul D. Marks. Down & Out, $18.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-64396-050-0

White female-born musician Bobby Saxon, the protagonist of this haphazard glimpse into WWII-era Los Angeles from Shamus Award winner Marks (the Duke Rogers PI thrillers), longs to find a place behind the piano in the Booker “Boom-Boom” Taylor Orchestra, a hot, all-black jazz big band. Dressed as a man, Bobby successfully tries out, earning a temporary spot for a high-profile gig, during which James Christmas, a hot-headed member of the band, gets into an altercation with Hans Dietrich, a German businessman with Nazi affiliations. When Dietrich is found dead during the performance, James is suspected of murder and arrested. Booker asks Bobby to investigate, believing a white person can make people more willing to cooperate; he also dangles the prospect of a permanent spot in the band if Bobby clears James’s name. Marks confronts racial and gender dynamics, but struggles to construct fully realized characters and leans heavily on pastiche in a way that undercuts his premise’s potential. Those hoping for nuance will be disappointed. (June)