The book with a music industry setting is the debut novel of Marc Blatte. Humpty Dumpty is said to be the first of a series that will feature Blatte’s new character, NYPD Detective “Black Sallie Blue Eyes,” named such due to his “ice-blue” eyes and the color of his hair--and his personality. In fact every character in this novel has a nickname.
The story revolves around Salvatore Messina, a top notch detective who has a strong intuitive sense that permits him to peep into people's minds. He is also an excellent interrogator with a great timing for his questions as well as good use of silence or what he calls "Liquid Wrench". Despite his extraordinary skills as a detective, he has a low self-esteem after being abandoned by 2 wives.. so the name "Sallie"
Sallie is accompanied on his crime fighting ventures by 2 capable partners (could not call them side kicks) - stud Teddy Schwartz and handsome Fordham grad Jackie Gleeson.
In addition to Sallie and his crew, Blatte has created an array of fascinating characters. First, there are look-alike cousins Pashko and Vooko, immigrants from Kosovo, who get turned onto the hip-hop life style. Both aspire to be “B-boys from the Boogie Down” and they dress and speak and act the part — as "best" as they can. They work as bouncers at the Kiki Club,a trendy hip-hop club in Chelsea. Then, there are four young men, all parolees from the “Far Rock PJs,” who aspire to be hip-hop artists. These fellows are known on the street as Science, Freeze, Pea Head and Scholar; Scholar is manager of the group which calls itself Proof Positive. Scholar’s cousin Biz is a big-time hip-hop producer and Proof relies on this connection to make inroads into and to the top of the hip-hop world. Rounding out the principal characters of Humpty Dumpty are the Kesslers - rich and influential developer, Sheldon, and his spoiled and drugged-out son Kal and screwed-up daughter Leah.
The story begins with the incidents at Kiki one weekend night. Pashko, the bouncer gets shot dead, Vooko assaulted by a hit and run vehicle and a white hip-hop producer for the ultimate hip-hop impresario Sunn Volt gets knifed. Not long afterwards Donny Donovan, the Kessler’s attorney, is found dead in his posh home in Mamaroneck. In addition to the foregoing victims (including attorney Donovan) also present at the club that night are Proof Positive and Kal and Leah.
Blatte writes an entertaining account of Sallie and his team’s solving of the mystery of who is/are responsible for the crimes committed at Kiki and the presumably related murder of Donovan. The story traces the cops following their leads all over New York from the Bronx, Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens, to Chelsea and Tribeca in Manhattan at times being subject to political pressure induced by Sheldon Kessler who has significant clout ober the mayor and the police commissioner. What impressed me was the detail with which Blatte describes the police procedural aspects to the story, demonstrating how the cops sift through the truths and lies and analyze what they know to find out the truth.
Slowly Sallie and his team uncover the dots which need to be somehow connected in order to have a solid testimony against the offences.
All in all an interesting read, though like many other first timers, Blatte, at times goes over board in describing certain trivial details which could have been avoided. But along the way, through his characters, he makes some really interesting comments which makes the reader think. For example, Vooko makes a nice comment bout the US.. he finds American competitiveness resulting in making the Americans in general pretty unhappy due to self imposed competitive pressures. Commenst like this, make this novel a lot more than just another WHO-DUNN-IT mystery.
Definitely a must read for people who like light fiction.
An article by Shrikant who blogs at Hedonist to the Core