Meddling reporter/detective wannabe

“Black Orchid Blues” by Persia Walker.

‘Good Lord, if that woman gets into one more car with one more gangster I’m gonna throw this book across the room!’ the reviewer thought when reporter/detective wannabe Lanie Price did the above yet again. Price is the heroine of the ongoing series of mystery/crime novels by Persia Walker but getting in cars with thugs is the least of Lanie’s problems in this latest page turner.

The story begins with the abduction of the eponymous drag queen from a club where she’s performing — and not only is the Black Orchid kidnapped in front of witnesses, including Lanie, but several patrons are gratuitously murdered as well. From there the plot takes twists and turns that absolutely no one sees coming, least of all Lanie, who’s determined to get to the bottom of the crime. And this time she’s going to discover that the bottom is rock bottom.

Lanie is a brilliantly drawn character, stubborn, smart, annoying, sometimes petty, often foolhardy, deeply compassionate. As a recent widow she’s vulnerable as well. Her vulnerability is something her boss and love interest, Sam, understands. He’s overprotective and she chafes when he forbids her, again and again, from getting too involved in a case that gets more grotesque and convoluted by the minute. She’s supposed to be the society columnist for their paper, after all, and not a detective.

But the Lanie Price’s novels are set during the Harlem Renaissance, when opportunities for African American women to become sleuths and even policewomen were probably rather scarce. The thing is Sam is often right, and sometimes when Lanie sticks her neck out even more mayhem results, which makes her get even more involved out of guilt or a sense of duty toward the victim. Her friend down at the police precinct, the Irish cop Blackie, is even less happy with her meddling than Sam is — at one point in “Black Orchid Blues” he has her arrested for obstruction.

Of course Lanie’s sprung out of jail and immediately gets into situations that might make the rest of us long for the security of a cell, at least for a night. If it’s the rotten underbelly of the Harlem Renaissance and Striver’s Row you’re looking for, Walker gives it to you in spades. But be assured the traumas Lanie witnesses and endures in this novel won’t stop her, or her creator. The reviewer eagerly looks forward to more Lanie Price adventures!

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