Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther

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Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther

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Buy Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Engaging and insightful historical crime fiction, particularly with regard to how black people were treated and regarded in pre WWII America. There's a good story there too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 220 Date: July 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1490960821

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Just before the beginning of the Second World War and half a world away from Europe the World's Fair is taking place in New York. The British king and queen are expected and there's a Joe Louis title fight on the horizon. Daniel Leland lives in Harlem. He used to be with the NYPD but was retired after he was shot by robbers: the bullet is still in his body and perilously close to his spine. Right now he makes his living as a small-time private detective, but business seems to be looking up when he's offered an investigation - and a very large retainer - by a manufacturer who might be suffering espionage. Before long there's a murder to add into the equation too.

It's not completely certain that there's going to be a war in Europe but there's an upsurge in Nazi sympathisers, some of them very organised. It's almost inevitable that Daniel is going to get on the wrong side of them. You see, Daniel's black. No - let's be straight about this: Daniel's a negro. There are no sensitivities about the word and besides, niggers don't have feelings, do they? And most of the people he encounters in the course of his investigation are white.

Here at Bookbag we've come to expect that Bruce Crowther will deliver a plot which keeps you guessing from beginning to end, with plenty of twists along the way, but not so complicated that you have to make notes to keep track of what's happening - and once again he's delivered. It's been particularly neatly done here because he's knitted the fictional story into the real world. He might have made some minor adjustments to the chronology but it all happened and there are real people in the story. And the fictional people come off the page well too.

The most striking - the most thought-provoking aspect of the book for me was the insight into the treatment of black people in pre-WWII America. They could be subjected to casual cruelty with little hope of redress and Daniel is no stranger to violent attacks. Perhaps the most heart-breaking moment for me was actually a moment of kindness. The chief of police in a white area deliberately touches his hat to Daniel - and it's this casual mark of respect that ensures that the rest of the police force realise that Daniel is off-limits. Crowther does it very neatly - pulling out the essentials of what is happening without overdoing it. I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For ore about old New York we can recommend Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. You might also enjoy A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan.

Buy Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Harlem Nocturne by Bruce Crowther at Amazon.com.

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