The Axeman


Product Details

Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.2 X 1.3 inches | 1.05 pounds

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About the Author

Ray Celestin lives in London. He studied Asian art and languages at university and is a script writer for film and TV, as well as publishing several short stories. The Axeman's Jazz is his first novel.


"Louis Armstrong is among those trying to track down a serial killer in the New Orleans of 1919 in Celestin's outstanding debut novel." - Daily Telegraph
"During a stormy summer in 1919 New Orleans, a serial killer is hacking seemingly random victims to death. This thriller, which blends voodoo, gangsters and jazz into an intoxicating mix, is based on a true story." - Sunday Mirror
"Smart, thrilling and dripping with class. A very special debut." - Malcolm Mackay, author of The Glasgow Trilogy
"A rewarding crime novel, swinging its way to a terrifying denouement with all the panache of a New Orleans marching band. This is an excellent debut, with a promise of more good mysteries to come." - The Times
"Inspired by the serial killer thought to have been responsible for 12 murders in New Orleans between 1918 and 1919, Ray Celestin's first novel, The Axeman's Jazz initially stays close to the known facts and includes a letter, published in the newspapers at the time, which was supposedly sent by the original Axeman. The writer, who, like the author of the famous 1888 "Jack the Ripper" letter, gives his address as "Hell," promises to claim his next victim at a specific date and time but says that he will spare those "in whose home a jazz band is in full swing." As with the Ripper, the real killer's identity remains unknown, and Celestin has three characters struggling to work out who he or she might be. Detective lieutenant Michael Talbot heads the official investigation; his former partner, Luca d'Andrea, recently freed from prison for corruption, is tasked by the mafia to discover whodunnit; and 19-year-old Sherlock Holmes fan Ida Davis, a secretary for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, decides to branch out on her own . . . Both a fascinating portrait of a vibrant and volatile city and a riveting read." - Guardian
"Celestin smartly evokes the atmosphere of 1919 New Orleans, and a city dominated by music and the mob. Gripping." - Sunday Times
"This debut thriller pulses with the beat of New Orleans in 1919 when a real-life killer stalked the Big Easy, and was never caught. Now Celestin creates a thriller that's evocative of a city where voodoo and trad jazz go hand in hand in the back alleys off Basin Street." - Peterborough Telegraph
"A brilliantly evoked roller coaster ride through pre-prohibition New Orleans - a town packed tight with jazz men and voodoo women, corrupt politicians and even more corrupt cops. This is historical fiction as time travel writing and a very difficult book to put down once started." - William Ryan, acclaimed author of the Captain Korolev series
"Utterly compelling, soaked in the unique intoxicating atmosphere of the New Orleans of the period. Marvellous, engaging characters and the writing is pretty much pitch perfect" - R. N. Morris
"Debut novelist Ray Celestin has based his beguiling crime thriller on the true story of a serial killer who terrorised New Orleans for more than a year after the First World War. Beautifully written, the evocative prose brings the jazz-filled, mob-ruled 'Big Easy' of pre-prohibition America to life in glorious effect with a story full of suspense and intrigue. Stunning." - Sunday Express
"Debut novelist Ray Celestin harnesses his trained scriptwriting eye for drama with the fascinating real-life story of the terrifying, Tarot card-touting Axeman in this atmospheric, high-tension thriller set in the broiling heat of the Deep South city that became the birthplace of jazz. Blending music, history and crime, Celestin builds a wickedly seductive and gripping tale as three people - one aided and abetted by a young, cornet-playing Louis Armstrong - set out to unmask the serial killer. The Axeman's Jazz was always going to be an ambitious project... delving deep into a true crime, blending a network of real and fictional characters and painting a portrait of an energetic, cosmopolitan city blighted by corruption and racism is a daunting challenge. But Celestin, the new kid on the block, has proved himself more than equal to the task. Using exceptional scene setting, zippy dialogue, a notably gutsy female lead and a mesmerising sense of time and place, he gets to the cruel heart of a savage crime and the musical soul of a sultry city . . . This is a thriller which doesn't just ask whodunit but why do the hunters need to know whodunit, and with the door left ajar for a sequel, we can look forward to more from this intriguing, intrepid author." - Lancashire Evening Post
"Celestin deftly weaves the rich history of New Orleans into the multiple plot lines while highlighting racial prejudice and political corruption that are more appalling than the Axeman's crimes. In sum, this is a tasty bowl of gumbo with a side of dirty rice." - Publishers Weekly
"Celestin's atmospheric debut uses this unsolved case as the axis for his engaging historical suspense novel." - Booklist
""Ray Celestin skillfully depicts the desperate revels of that idiosyncratic city and its bizarre legends in his first novel, THE AXEMAN." - The New York Times Sunday Book Review (Marilyn Stasio, Crime Columnist)
" - The New York Times Sunday Book Review