This slim detective novel is billed as being ‘hard-boiled’ but it’s far from gritty or grim. Crime Czar is more of an entertaining interlude in the life of lawyer Tubby Dubonnet, who eats and drinks his way through myriad New Orleans landmarks while balancing grief for his recently deceased partner, delight at the birth of a grandchild, a quest to bring down the city’s criminal mastermind, and campaigning on behalf of a judge seeking re-election. It’s also described as a ‘legal thriller’ but this is no courtroom drama.
Throw in a hooker with a hearty of gold hell-bent on revenge, old-school Vietnamese gangsters feeling the squeeze, and a girlfriend who carries the proceeds of a jewel heist in her purse, and you have a whole stack of tangled plotlines which the author neatly knits together. They’re far from plausible but that’s part of the charm.
Crime Czar doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it attempt to unravel the social and political ills of Louisiana’s heartland. Instead it resembles the best beignet from the Café du Monde; light and fluffy, sugar-dusted, gone in an afternoon without spoiling any appetite for something more substantial. This New Orleans is recognisably the same landscape of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel, but without the anger, danger and edge of NOLA noir.
I suspect I would’ve enjoyed Crime Czar more if I’d read the previous Tubby Dubonnet books and could enjoy all the reunions and ongoing plots which took place – to some extent this felt like entering a conversation part-way through. Also, although my edition was published in 2013, I think the book dates from 15 year or more ago. It certainly feels dated in places.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Crime Czar, and several other Tubby Dubonnet titles, are available in ebook formats