Outside the apartment where a wake is going on, the manager of the A&P across the street is robbed. Reverend Short, a storefront preacher addicted to opium and brandy, is watching from a bedroom window in the flat. He leans out too far and falls, but a huge bread basket, sitting outside the bakery below, saves him. Back inside, he says he sees a vision of a dead man. Outside, in the very basket Short landed in, lies the body of Valentine Haines. Who murdered Val? It is up to Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson to find out.
©1959 Chester Himes, copyright renewed 1987 by Lesley Himes (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
“this mystery is full of wonderfully stereotypical characters, portrayed by Dion Graham in a silky voice…Graham’s characterizations of gangsters, preachers, and thieves are energetic and imaginative, especially when the action heats up. This period whodunit is a treat for listeners who enjoy hearing zany characters brought to life with panache.” (Audiofile)
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
How to describe this nutty plot? During a wake in the small hours of the morning, a preacher falls out the window from the third floor apartment and miraculously falls into a basket filled with bread sitting on the sidewalk, a shipment bound for the convenience store it sits in front of. The unharmed preacher makes his way back up to the apartment where the drunken guests are surprised to see him appear at the front door and refuse to believe his story. He invites them to see the bread basket for themselves, but when they all crowd at the window, they find another man laying in the bread, stabbed dead. A police investigation follows, during which all the attendants of the wake are questioned in turn. Of course, all the guests are connected to one another in some way, and most of them have secrets to hide which are revealed in due course, but which one killed Val? Detectives Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are out to find out.
Another fun romp into the 60s Harlem of Chester Himes, where gambling, booze, women, and strange characters are mingled in unique ways. There's plenty of violence in this hardboiled series, but plenty of humour too. I didn't expect this book to be as good as the first one, A Rage in Harlem, especially as read by Samuel L. Jackson, but Dion Graham is a great narrator and the story and narration held their own and definitely made me want to discover the next instalment of the Harlem Cycle.
Does not take long to get into this story. BAM! Someone is dead at the opening. Heard of the author but never read any of his works. Felt that I had to to expand my cultural understanding. Surely there are some good people in Harlem! The portrayal of homosexuals, thieves, adulteress, jack-legged preachers, jealous lovers, "loose" women, and tough, unorthodoxed black police officers is hallarious and goes a loooong way. While, None of the characters deserve empathy or sympathy, I missed them when the story ended. This is a smooth and comfortable story about an era long ago where the living was not easy. Dion Graham did an excellent job of narration. His smooth, silky voice reminded me of being in a grungy, smokey, jazz club. Black culture noir. It made me feel like I belonged in this story. The relationships among the characters are complicated. Very interactive group. Took awhile for me to figure out who was sleeping with who, who was dirty, who was a victim, and how folks are related to each other. Very little the characters could do but be present when the police came around. They better have had the right responses to the people or life would become messy. All characters seemed to be dirt poor, but each had a hustle which made money. Meeting the characters and learning about them was more interesting than solving the murder of Val. I am going to find another book by this author just spend more time in the era and neighborhood. Along with the detectives, I hope to see some familiar characters.
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