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Ray Celestin Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Axeman's Jazz aka The Axeman (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Dead Man's Blues (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Ray Celestin is a British crime mystery writer that hails from London. He is best known for “The Axeman Jazz” and “Dead Man’s Blues” novels. Celestin’s debut novel was “The Axeman’s Jazz” that was published in 2014, and went on to attain massive popularity. Celestin is a thirty-year-old Londoner that studied languages and Asian art at university. He is also known as a scriptwriter for TV and film. Before writing his debut novel, he published a series of short stories that were moderately successful. As for his inspiration for his literary works, he is a voracious reader of historical crime fiction. He cites the likes of CJ Sansom and James Elroy, which are either historical or written so long ago that their work becomes set in a past world. In fact, “An Instance of the Fingerpost” by Iain Peters, which is set in the Restoration era, is one of his favorite novels of all time. He tends to like historical novels that have a sense of escapism. His writing experience in film, TV, and short stories greatly influenced the writing of his debut novel as he used the major elements of script writing including location description, character description, character location, and what they do in a sequential manner that are critical in script writing. Given that he was used to writing short stories, he asserts that he found the writing of the novel quite daunting, and hence he went about writing the chapters as if they were short stories and standalone pieces. When he is not writing and reading he loves to watch old films on repertory screening.

Ray Celestin’s novels follow three compelling characters involved in solving the real life Axeman like cases from different angles. Detective Michael Talbot takes up the police investigation, and thinks that the mafia rather than an enigmatic serial killer is behind the killings. His job is made all the more difficult by vindictive colleagues bitter at him for blowing the whistle on a corrupt officer years earlier. He also has a dark secret that could turn into a major scandal and end his career if he failed to resolve the case. Ida Davis of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency is a young secretary, a light-skinned black woman who does not fit in either the white or the black communities in New Orleans. She works under a drink-obsessed boss who does nothing but drink in his office the whole day leaving her to deal with the Axeman case. Obsessed with solving the case, she enlists the help of Lewis a young jazz musician and longtime childhood friend. The third protagonist is Luca D’Andrea a former detective that just got out of jail. He has to work with Michael his protégée and the man who blew the whistle on his corrupt activities sending him to prison. He holds no grudge and is just interested in getting away from the hold of the Black Hand and the mafia. The mafia needs him to do one last thing for them – solve the Axeman case, which has been hurting their business, as the police believe they are involved in the serial killings.

Greatly inspired by Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, The Axeman novels are nor-style crime novels based on The Axeman of New Orleans a real life serial killer that operated in the city between 1918 and 1919. They are fascinating thrillers with masterful handling of the action and suspense that will leave detective thriller lovers on the edge of their seats. The lead antagonist, the Axeman for the most part is a background character. Nonetheless, his presence is very much felt throughout the novels as all the protagonists work to stop him from committing his next murder. However, it is not that easy to stop the expert killer. What makes it even harder is that every ethnic group in New Orleans has their own gossip and stories about the legend of the Axeman, which further serves to further mystify the man. New Orleans itself could be argued to be a character in itself as Celestin borrows the elements of the British classic Jack the Ripper in making the city come to life. From the city’s unique character, the locales, rich Louisiana history, voodoo, the communities, language, and the jazz experience, Celestin does it so well in capturing the essence and atmosphere of the early 20th century city.

“The Axeman’s Jazz” is an early twentieth century novel about a real life serial killer known as The Axeman of New Orleans. Three individuals with different motivations set out to capture or unmask the elusive serial killer with little success. While nearly every citizen of the city thinks that they have uncovered the mystery of the Axeman, Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot who is in charge of the police investigations finds the leads hard to come by. He is motivated by a dark secret that will only stay hidden if he can resolve the Axeman case, and fast. For Luca d’Andrea who has just come back to the States after spending six years in a prison in Angola, the dream is to disentangle himself from the mafia. But the mafia want to resolve the Axeman mystery just as much as the police. The case has increased the scrutiny on their business, as the lieutenant believes the mafia may have something to do with the murders rather than a solo acting murderer. Meanwhile, Pinkerton Detective Agency’s Ida who is a big Sherlock Holmes fan is dreaming of a more interesting life. Stumbling upon a lead, she enlists the help of her friend Lewis Louis Armstrong, before plunging headlong in a case that promises more danger than they have or will ever encounter. As they grow closer to unmasking the enigmatic Axeman, the killer issues an ultimatum to the city residents – play jazz or die. The novel is set to be made into a television series by See Saw Films.

“Dead Man’s Blues” is the explosive second novel by Ray Celestin. Set in Chicago, the novel tells of three disturbing events that happen on one stifling hot summer day. A famous heiress disappears mysteriously, a white gangster’s body is found dead and mutilated in a back alley, and a clique of city leaders die from food poisoning at a fancy hotel. Pinkerton Detective Agency’s finest Ida Davis and Michael Talbot are put on the case to locate the missing heiress by a distraught mother. Even as the girl is a well-known face in the city, locating her is not that easy, necessitating Ida to enlist the help of her longtime friend Louis Armstrong. Though the police show little inclination to investigate the white gangster’s murder, crime photographer Jacob Russo is obsessed with the image of he dead man and begins his own investigations. Meanwhile, rum fixer and runner Dante Sanfelippo who works for Al Capone is in town to investigate a suspected traitor in their ranks on the orders of the boss. But Dante has his own history with the New Orleans, which resurface after he comes back to the city that he had sworn never to come back to. With the three parties edging closer to the truth, their lives become more dangerous amidst the corruption, booze, and jazz of New Orleans.

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