New Orleans private investigator Burleigh Drummond takes his responsibilities very seriously. So when he learns ex-girlfriend Coco Robicheaux has been brutally raped and murdered, and that several phone calls from Coco he had ignored were placed only hours before her death, he makes it his responsibility to find out who killed her and why.
Drummond’s investigation takes him deep into the seedy underbelly of the Big Easy, where he discovers that Coco had become an unwilling pawn in a plan to influence the mayoral election. To get to the ultimate truth Drummond will have to thread his way through a maze of corrupt politicians, crooked cops, the Velvet Mafia, and an entrenched, old money blueblood society who will close ranks to thwart any perceived threat to their power and control.
At first blush the wisecracking, gin & tonic drinking Burleigh Drummond brings to mind Philip Marlowe. Indeed, author Kent Westmoreland even tips his cap to Raymond Chandler by having Drummond describe one of the characters in Baronne Street with words reminiscent of Marlowe’s description of Moose Malloy in Farewell, My Lovely.
The character Drummond most reminds me of, however, is Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar. Both Myron and Burleigh are generally laid-back, violence avoiding, idealists at heart who seem to find themselves caught up in situations which spiral far beyond anything they anticipated. And just as Myron has in best friend Windsor Horne Lockwood III a go-to guy for the conscienceless violence, Burleigh has his own deadly sidekick with a murky background in Morgan Cross. Westmoreland could do far worse than bring comparisons to Chandler and Coben to mind.
Baronne Street is a stunning debut. Indeed, Westmoreland writes with the confidence and polish of someone well into their career, not a first time author. He gives amazing attention to detail (Burleigh’s fondness for Sapphire and tonic made me put the book down and mix one myself on at least one occasion… ok, maybe two), and his descriptions of the city are so vivid that by the time I’d finished the book I felt as though I’d actually visited.
The New Orleans setting and compelling lead in Burleigh are ripe for further adventures, not to mention I definitely want to know more about Morgan Cross, and I for one certainly hope to see Burleigh Drummond blossom into a long-lived series. It would truly be a shame if Westmoreland doesn’t find a larger audience for this fine debut, so why don’t you make this a win-win situation for everyone and take a trip to Baronne Street.