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3.0 

Cahokia Jazz

By Francis Spufford
Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford digital book - Fable

Publisher Description

“Dazzling.” —Los Angeles Times * “Energetic and hugely enjoyable.” —The Guardian, Best Fiction of the Year * “As intoxicating as a swig of bathtub gin.” —Good Housekeeping

The bestselling and award-winning author of Golden Hill delivers a “smoky, brooding noir set in the 1920s” (Slate) that reimagines how American history would be different if, instead of being decimated, indigenous populations had thrived.


Like his earlier novel Golden Hill, Francis Spufford’s Cahokia Jazz inhabits a different version of America, now through the lens of a subtly altered 1920s—a fully imagined world filled with fog, cigarette smoke, dubious motives, danger, and dark deeds. In the main character of hard-boiled detective Joe Barrow, we have a hero of truly epic proportions, a troubled soul to fall in love with as you are swept along by a propulsive and brilliantly twisty plot.

One snowy night at the end of winter, Barrow and his partner find a body on the roof of a skyscraper. Down below, streetcar bells ring, factory whistles blow, Americans drink in speakeasies and dance to the tempo of modern times. But this is Cahokia, the ancient indigenous city beside the Mississippi living on as a teeming industrial metropolis containing people of every race and creed. Among them, peace holds. Just about. Yet that corpse on the roof will spark a week of drama in which this altered world will spill its secrets and be brought, against a soundtrack of jazz clarinets and wailing streetcars, either to destruction or rebirth.

“Atmospheric…many of us will recognize our own held-breath bafflement, caught, as we are, on the darkling plain of our own barely believable times” (The Washington Post).

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3 Reviews

3.0
Beaming Face with Smiling Eyes“This was amazing!! Set in an alternative 1920s US where Indigenous populations weren’t completely decimated and retained some power in some areas, the city of Cahokia (a real place!) is the center of Native power. In comes Joe Barrow, detective assigned to a brutal murder with significant implications. In true noir detective fashion, there’s a lot of double-crossing, hidden motives and secrets to be dug out. There’s dangerous women and jazz music and speakeasies. There’s also the KKK and some pretty sharp critique of the nature of America. The writing was perfect, genre appropriate but not pulpy. The mystery was tight and the twists were fantastic, but, like the best noir, it is about disenchantment and futility and choosing to do right even when it’s not beneficial. Just truly excellent work, what a freaking beauty.”
Characters change and growDiverse charactersMulti-layered charactersSuspensefulTwistyImmersive setting
“It's a really interesting concept. The ancient city of Cahokia never went away. Against this back drop is a murder mystery set in an alternate 1920s America. The setting and concept is a great idea, but the execution is off the mark. The murder mystery is ho hum and the ending is just hokey.”

About Francis Spufford

Francis Spufford began as the author of four highly praised books of nonfiction. His first book, I May Be Some Time, won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Nonfiction Book of 1996, the Banff Mountain Book Prize, and a Somerset Maugham Award. It was followed by The Child That Books BuiltBackroom Boys, and most recently, Unapologetic. But with Red Plenty in 2012 he switched to the novel. Golden Hill won multiple literary prizes on both sides of the Atlantic; Light Perpetual was longlisted for the Booker Prize. In England he is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Historical Society. He teaches writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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