“South, America” by Rod Davis. New South Books, 2014. $24.95.
Take one dead body, add a former TV reporter turned freelancer and part-time private investigator. Stir in a gorgeous woman with a mysterious past. Mix in the wound of race, a little voodou, and the mob. Simmer against the backdrop of New Orleans and the Delta, and you have the recipe for the sometimes lyrical, sometimes gritty “South, America.”
Rod Davis gives us a world-weary protagonist, adrift but observant. Jack Prine knows a group of tourists will decide that “New Orleans was where people came to be somebody else,” that for them one pre-lunch drink will turn into many and then into a nap, the process will repeat itself that evening. He knows he’s in trouble, too, that he’s as uncertain as the shaky jobs that pay the bills.
“All that’s a long way of saying that as uncertain as things were for me in the Big Easy, I felt a lot better and a lot healthier than I had in the Big D. And if you are getting healthier in New Orleans, you definitely know you were not doing well previously.”
Prine is forced to drop his observer’s role when the murder victim’s sister asks for his help. By saying yes, Prine is plunged into an odyssey involving art thieves, racists, hit men and an equally deadly family trip.
It’s worth taking the trip with him.