Leavin' Trunk Blues is the second installment in the Nick Travers series by author Ace Atkins. Travers is an unusual sleuth in that he is a blues historian; he lives in New Orleans, but frequents the small towns and countryside of the Mississippi Delta, in search of the elusive roots of blues music. Because a great number of the players were illiterate, there is, in many cases, only an oral history, and Nick wants badly to ensure this valuable piece of Americana is not lost to posterity with the deaths of the remaining original bluesmen.
For several years, Travers has followed the case of Ruby Walker, a black chanteuse who boarded the Illinois Central some 40 years ago in search of the promised land, Sweet Home Chicago. She became a Chi-town blues legend, then lost it all in a heartbeat when she was convicted of the brutal slaying of her producer and lover, Billy Lyons, back in 1959. Although Nick has written to her many times requesting an interview, he has never heard back from her . . . until now. Ruby maintains her innocence, and Nick sets out to see if he can be of some help. Upon arriving in Chicago, Nick finds there are many who want the details of Billy's death to stay obscured, and some of them will go to any lengths to prevent new evidence from seeing the light of day. And before long, Nick will be running for his life from a six-foot-six unholy terror, a Chicago legend named Stagger Lee.
Clearly Ace Atkins has a love for the bluesmen and the cities they called home. His crisp writing style and unusual subject matter should attract a large audience both of blues and mystery fans.
Bruce Tierney is a Nashville-based writer and mystery aficionado. He'll recommend the best in mysteries each month in a new column, Whodunit?