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King Zeno  By  cover art

King Zeno

By: Nathaniel Rich
Narrated by: Holter Graham
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Publisher's Summary

New Orleans, 1918. The birth of jazz, the Spanish flu, an ax murderer on the loose. The lives of a traumatized cop, a conflicted Mafia matriarch, and a brilliant trumpeter converge - and Crescent City gets the rich, dark, sweeping audiobook it so deserves.

From Odds Against Tomorrow author Nathaniel Rich, one of the most inventive minds of his generation, King Zeno is a historical crime audiobook and a searching inquiry into man's dreams of immortality.

New Orleans in the early 20th century is a city determined to reshape its destiny and, with it, the nation's. Downtown, a new American music is born. In Storyville, prostitution is outlawed, and the police retake the streets with maximum violence. In the Ninth Ward, laborers break ground on a gigantic canal that will split the city, a work of staggering human ingenuity intended to restore New Orleans' faded mercantile glory. The war is ending, and a prosperous new age dawns. But everything is thrown into chaos by a series of murders committed by an ax-wielding maniac with a peculiar taste in music.

The murders scramble the fates of three people from different corners of town. Detective William Bastrop is an army veteran haunted by an act of wartime cowardice, recklessly bent on redemption. Isadore Zeno is a jazz cornetist with a dangerous side hustle. Beatrice Vizzini is the widow of a crime boss, who yearns to take the family business straight. Each nurtures private dreams of worldly glory and eternal life, their ambitions carrying them into dark territories of obsession, paranoia, and madness.

In New Orleans, a city built on swamp, nothing stays buried for long. Listeners will thrill at the chance to engage in a little imaginative excavation.

©2018 Nathaniel Rich (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"Holter Graham's narration matches the author's tense tone in this expansive audiobook...Graham handles the large cast of characters and multiple storylines with ease, ratcheting up the tension in the right places and keeping listeners engaged." — AudioFile Magazine

What listeners say about King Zeno

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not a convincing New Orleans narrator

The story is good. Let me just say that first. However it was completely distracting,hear the narrators pronunciations of New Orleans streets, neighborhoods, names. Most remarkably wrong was his pronunciation of streets. Terpsichore, Calliope, Tchopitoulas. These are just a few that made my skin crawl every time he pronounce them incorrectly. It was a big downer. Makes you think he knew nothing about the city, it’s history and its people. Bad bad bad

4 people found this helpful

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  • DJ
  • 05-09-18

Great Setup, Performance. The Ending, Not So Much.

Nathaniel Rich's novel "King Zeno" is a romp through post-World War I New Orleans: the beginnings of jazz, the building of the Industrial Canal, and the coming of the Spanish Flu. Rich's New Orleans is a world of "towns within towns," with different races and ethnicities bumping into one another intentionally and less so. Rich tells the tale of a young Creole jazz cornetist seeking to make his mark in the world, a detective trying to piece himself together after returning from the Western Front, and a Sicilian matron looking after her shadowy family business, all while a more conventional thriller is developing, as a crazed "Axeman" chops his way across town. The performance, by Holter Graham, is excellent, bordering on a radio play. My only gripe is that the ending is right out of bad mystery movie, with implausible coincidences and one-too-many threads being neatly tied up. Still, very much a good read... or listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Pretty good. Slow start, fun finish

A fun read, especially if you're a NOLA buff. What do a serial killer, a WWI vet with PTSD, and a coronet genius have in common? Read it and find out.

Narration is excellent during narrative sequences and matches the snappy zest for language that this author matches to the jazzy subject matter. HOWEVER, the narrator stinks at dialogue. His two main male characters sound like they have marbles in their mouth and a cold. Sort of like Maron Brando in the Godfather, only feeble-minded, which neither character is. It's quite odd, because he does a great job at the narrative sequences.

One thing I found troubling is the complete lack of the reality of racism in social institutions in the Jim Crow south, which would have been as obvious as the Mississippi mud. The white author ignored institutionalized racism completely out of guilt, but since one of the main characters is African American and clearly would have been constrained by Jim Crow, it made no sense.

1 person found this helpful

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New Orleans 1918. Crime and Jazz

Interesting story of three very different lives in New Orleans, a musician, a policeman and an oddball heir to a local mafia kingpin. Well written. Not a killer, but the performance fails to capture what people in New Orleans actually sound like, and he manages, like many tourists, to mispronounce the name of a famous street. Shoulda done a little research.

1 person found this helpful

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Insipid story and awful reader

Not since Dennis Quaid in The Big Easy has a reader done a less creditable New Orleans accent. Also, it's perhaps understandable that his pronunciation of New Orleans street names like Melpomene, Tchoupitoulas, Dryades and Clio betrays his lack of familiarity with the town (although the cognoscenti surely would tsk at a reader who pronounced the name of a certain Manhattan street as if it were the largest city in Texas). He even struggles with common words.

This is no Ragtime, though readers may look for similarities. Stick with Doctorow.

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Couldn't get past the first chapter

The first chapter was about a "Negro highwayman" robbing people. Not my type of a story.

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Odd story

Weirdest book I’ve read in a long time , glad to finish !! Read at your own peril !