Reviewed by Jameka B. Lewis
TAGS: Persia Walker, Akashic Books, Harlem Renaissance
Persia Walker weaves a golden thread of mystery, love, intrigue and sorrow with Black Orchid Blues.Who plucked the Black Orchid from its garden of fame, fortune and an unshared spotlight? Why would a sultry singer be kidnapped and taken away from the adoring public? That’s what readers will wonder as they read this engaging novel.
Black Orchid Blues tells the story of the kidnapping of Queenie Lovetree, a Harlem soul singer who seemed to be born onstage. In the midst of an unforgettable performance, Queenie is abducted from the stage, right before the eyes of society reporter Lanie Price. As a witness to the crime, Lanie resolves to find out what happened to the Cinnamon Club’s “Black Orchid”. She reluctantly enlists the assistance of her boss, newspaper editor Sam Delaney and local police detective John Blackie, both of whom try to protect Lanie during her investigation into the Black Orchid kidnapping. Lanie’s thirst for the scoop leads her from stately homes to dark warehouses and from elaborate parties to multiple crime scenes.
As the story unfolds, readers will be taken through a maze of unexpected plot twists and turns as Lanie does her best to find out what happened to Queenie Lovetree. Suspects turn into allies and danger continually lurks in the forms of shadowy figures that seem to follow Lanie everywhere she goes. While the story moves at a decent pace at the beginning and middle, it takes a while for the ending to come; this distracts from the overall theme and message of the book. While the ending contains a great message that is relevant to both the time period in which the story is set and present day, the theme and underlying message could have been better developed and incorporated throughout the story. The characters are developed well; each of the main characters has depth and readers will be able to relate to their roles in the plot. Readers will find themselves rooting for Lanie, admiring Sam and Blackie and holding their breath to find out what happened to Queenie.
Black Orchid Blues is an enjoyable book for readers who enjoy historical fiction and mysteries. Persia White references essential Harlem Renaissance figures and it is obvious that she researched the underground cultural happenings of the time. This mystery concludes in a surprising way that will leave readers appreciative and informed.
Jameka B. Lewis is the current Head of Special Collections at the Melvin B. Tolson Black Heritage Center, located at Langston University in Langston, OK. She has a Master of Library Science degree from Texas Women’s University and loves her career as a librarian. She has reviewed books for the LU Gazette and enjoys reading and discovering new authors. In her spare time, her hobbies include writing, editing, researching historical artifacts and learning more about archives and preservation.