cover image Room to Swing

Room to Swing

Ed Lacy. Poisoned Pen, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-7282-6310-6

This 1958 Edgar Award winner for best novel from Lacy (1911–1968) masterfully combines a classic genre trope with a powerful depiction of the impact of racism in 1950s America. Black PI Touissant Moore arrives in Bingston, Ohio, where his skin color automatically evokes hostility from white people. He secures a room in the Black enclave, but the daughter of his hosts sees through his story that he’s a traveling jazz musician. Moore admits that he’s looking for information about a former resident, Robert Thomas, who was wanted by the Ohio police for the rape and assault of a teen six years earlier and was recently murdered in New York City, where Thomas was living under an alias. Moore, who’s been hired by a TV show that rewards viewers for nabbing criminals profiled on the program, thinks the killer may have come from Bingston. Moore wants to make sure that Thomas stayed in the area long enough to be seen by a viewer, but he ends up framed for Thomas’s murder. The pacing, sharp-edged prose, and characterizations are all top-notch. With any luck, this assured and memorable crime novel will lead to further reissues of Lacy’s work. (Oct.)