The tough side of the Big Easy

devilsBob Moyer knows New Orleans, and he knows good police procedurals. He finds much to praise in this lively novel.

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

THE DEVIL’S MUSE. By Bill Loehfelm. Farrar Straus Giroux. 258 pages. $26.

Mardi Gras.

Most people see a chance to party, beads flying through the air, beads on the ground, people shouting at masked people on floats, happy children on their fathers’ shoulders.

Others, like rookie New Orleans police officer Maureen “Mo” Coughlin and her colleagues, see nothing but potential disaster, bullets flying through the air, bodies on the ground, people shooting at masked people on floats, wounded children in their fathers’ arms.

Stationed along the St. Charles parade route of the Krewe of Muses, the police are the thin blue line against the chaos just waiting to break out, the crowd so dense, so packed together that Mo “… could feel the collected body heat.”

When gunshots ring out, she and her partners spring into action. So does Bill Loehfelm’s prose, as he embarks on more than 200 pages of real-time narration, taking the reader along for a roller-coaster ride where no one knows what’s coming in the next paragraph.

The author has created a real police procedural, as the cops race a “hundred yard dash” to keep things under control. Along the way, Loehfelm takes us deep into New Orleans life, sending Maureen down “…streets like a redheaded Alice lost in some bizarre broke-down, broke-ass working-class Wonderland,” past an old lady outside a bar selling Zapp potato chips and taking “…a long drag on a long cigarette,” and past the “…best-looking cops she had ever seen” —“tall, powerful, bright-eyed, black-haired [German] shepherds.”

The “race” comes to a halt after following Mo through “…overdoses, shootings, foot chases, fornicating couples, irate neighbors, citizen journalists, zombie stories and gangland parleys,” enough action for a month, let alone one shift. The pace leaves Mo and her buddies just a little breathless and longing for a drink — before they do it all again the next shift.

In this continuing series, Loehfelm once again proves he knows how to laisser le bon lecture roulez.

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