Sinner, Saint or Serpent
By John Anthony Miller
New Orleans, 1926
When a leading businessman is found murdered, investigative reporters Justice Harper, known for his fairness, and Remy Morel, his sassy counterpart, are determined to find the killer. There are three suspects, all prominent women in New Orleans society. The sinner is Blaze Barbeau, a real estate magnate with a checkered past. The saint is Lucinda Boyd, who lost her family business to the victim. And the serpent is a spooky voodoo queen named Belladonna Dede.
"The citizens of New Orleans have a right to know what happens in their city. Especially when there's a murderer in their midst."
Many said he had it coming. No one liked August Chevalier — he was a ruthless businessman, a man of questionable morals. He had destroyed so many lives. But, who would have dared to put a bullet in his head? That was a question journalist Napoleon "Justice" Harper intended to find an answer to. Working alongside the police, although at times Justice felt that he was actually doing the work for the police, Justice narrowed the suspects down to three:
and Belladonna Dede. Did these women have a motive for murder? Indeed, they did. Were they guilty of such a hideous crime? Justice was determined to find out. From a gruesome crime scene in New Orleans to the discovery of who really killed August Chevalier, Sinner, Saint or Serpent by John Anthony Miller is the most enthralling historical murder mystery. Miller confirms once again, why he is one of my favourite historical thriller authors. With a cinematic perspective approach to his writing, Miller has bestowed upon his readers a story that is as rich in tension as it is in content. This is a sit on the edge of your seat type thriller, where you fear for the intrepid protagonist's life as he tries to piece together the events leading up to the murder. This story is rich in content and extremely vivid in the telling. The narrative is incredibly fast-paced, and along with the easy prose style, Sinner, Saint or Serpent was next to impossible to put down. Justice is a man of deep morals. He has a nearly impeccable reputation as a reporter who not only seeks the truth but champions the underdog. He is willing to risk incurring criticism and even anger by asking the questions he knows need asking. And although he treats everyone with dignity and respect, Justice always gets to the truth of the matter. He is also in a unique position where everybody likes him, including the suspects to the murder. Justice is also very diplomatic, with a kind of, you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours, mentality when dealing with not only the police but everyone he comes into contact with. At times, this approach makes him seem incredibly corruptible, especially when it comes to his dealings with Nicodemo Esposito (Nicky the Knife) a man who has ties to the Mafia. However, I thought it made him somewhat human. Justice is fallible, but then so would you be if you were threatened with a baseball bat and a six-foot deep hole at the local cemetery! I thought Justice's characterisation was fabulous. Here is a protagonist whose reporter instincts land him in a whole heap of trouble, but who is never thwarted in his determination to seek out the truth. Justice is the kind of protagonist that a reader can really get behind. As all good reporters have, Justice has a partner. Remy More is a young, eager reporter whose mouth has a habit of running away from her and who always has something to eat close at hand. Remy, at times, provides some very comical and lighthearted, almost theatrical, moments throughout this novel. Her outspokenness does not always go down well — especially not at police conferences. She is, however, knowledgeable and very quick at seeing things that Justice misses. Remy can be quite judgmental, but then most people are. Remy was a wonderful supporting character throughout this story, and her inclusion gave this book a fabulous sense of depth. The antagonist in this story is August Chevalier. He has wronged so many people. His greed and selfish ambition meant that no one was sorry that he had been murdered. The only remorse was that the people who were acquainted with him had not the courage to kill him themselves. We never get to meet Chevalier, for the book opens with the discovery of his body, so instead, we can get a sense of his character from what others say of him. Miller has not caricatured Chevalier's character — he is not the epitome of evil, he did do a lot for charity on the quiet, and his will is incredibly generous, which I thought made his characterisation all the more realistic and more importantly, believable. Miller has captured the very essence of New Orleans in the late 1920s. I could almost hear the music in Miller's words and sentences. I could picture the speakeasy, and I feared as Justice did, the superstition and the voodoo culture that was rife during this time. All of this makes an evocative backdrop to the story. I have said this before in previous reviews, but I will stress it again, Miller is the King of Plot Twists, and this book is no exception to his rule of surprising his readers. When I thought I knew where Miller was going with the story, when I thought I had it all figured out, and I had decided upon a murderer, Miller threw in a massive twist, which left me staring at the page in opened mouth surprise! I must admit I do have a fondness for books that surprise me! Sinner, Saint or Serpent captivated me from beginning to end. It is what historical murder mysteries are all about. I Highly Recommend. Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Pick up your copy of
Sinner, Saint or Serpent
John Anthony Miller
John Anthony Miller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a father of English ancestry and a second-generation Italian mother. Motivated by a life-long love of travel and history, he normally sets his novels in exotic locations during eras of global conflict. Characters must cope and combat, overcoming their own weaknesses as well as the external influences spawned by tumultuous times. He’s the author of the historical thrillers, To Parts Unknown, In Satan’s Shadow, When Darkness Comes, All the King's Soldiers, and For Those Who Dare, as well as the historical mystery, Honour the Dead. His latest novel, Sinner, Saint or Serpent, is a jazz age murder mystery set in New Orleans. He lives in southern New Jersey with his family.