Out of the Blues

Out of the Blues

by Trudy Nan Boyce

Overview: On her first day as a newly minted homicide detective, Sarah “Salt” Alt is given the cold-case murder of a blues musician whose death was originally ruled an accidental drug overdose. Now new evidence has come to light that he may have been given a hot dose intentionally. And this evidence comes from a convicted felon hoping to trade his knowledge for shortened prison time . . . a man who Salt herself put behind bars.

In a search that will take her into the depths of Atlanta’s buried wounds—among the city’s homeless, its politically powerful churches, commerce and industry, and the police department itself—Salt probes her way toward the truth in a case that has more at stake than she ever could have imagined. At once a vivid procedural and a penetrating examination of what it means to be cop, Out of the Blues is a remarkable crime debut.

Gail Reid (04/30/16): As part of a challenge to evaluate new books by Atlanta authors, I read this debut mystery by Trudy Nan Boyce. Boyce rose through the ranks of the Atlanta Police Department over a career span of 30 years. She incorporates her wide knowledge of crime, the underworld and police procedure into a backdrop of old time blues music originating in the south.

The lead character, Sarah Alt, known as Salt to the force and among the housing project residents she served for a decade, has just been promoted to detective. A loner, with demons of her own, Salt solves her first case dramatically and manages to tie up an unsolved crime, a major current homicide and bring down a corrupt titan in the religious world within her first few weeks on the job. Detective Salt seems to cry out as the heroine of future mystery novels or a television series.

The story line is interesting but not riveting. There are a lot of characters but they do contribute to the complexity and depth of the situation. What I liked best and what I feel resonated most for me are Boyce's descriptions of landmarks and neighborhoods in Atlanta, her observations and wise commentary on racial divide, on the urban mix of Atlanta's intown culture and LGBT populations, and of the underbelly of blues music in Southern culture. The authenticity and the grittiness of the inner city really stand out. ***+
Rating: ***+

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