Prohibition-era mobsters collide with Underground Railroad abolitionists in The Jazz Cage.
It is 1924—sixty years after the South’s victory in the Civil War.
Frank McCluey, bounty hunter for the mob, is sent to help out a wealthy Virginian bootlegger. Frank’s job: track down two female slaves who’ve run away from the millionaire.
But the mob has made a bad choice. Instead of capturing the women, Frank decides to help them escape to Canada, his mission now aided by the pint-sized but steel-willed runaway Della and the outlawed Underground Railroad.
Soon Della and Frank become the target of slave catchers, cops, gangsters, and most chilling of all, a Confederate agent nicknamed the Hound for his ability to always sniff out and kill his prey. - Goodreads
*May Contain Spoilers*
In Ray Chen Smith's novel, The Jazz Cage, the history learned in class isn't how The Civil War ended and slavery was never abolished. Now it's the twenties with twisted territories and two young slaves, Della and Cece, are trying to escape their owner. Enter Frank, used-to-be gangster who's determined to do right or die.
The entire novel is like a compilation of scenes from a diary. Smith's writing puts readers directly in the thick of the action. And it never lets up. Readers will feel as if they are living history through the words on the page as the plot line carries them through the South and up into the North, trekking toward freedom with Della and Cece.
The main thing I loved about this book: the obstacles that Smith put in front of Della, Cece, and Frank. When trouble was catching up with the three freedom searchers, Smith didn't shy away from the situation or cheat his way through. Smith matched up the fugitives and those tracking them, letting it all play out, describing every second of the action. I have to give kudos because the characters ended up in increasingly tight spots all the way until the end.
And the characters themselves were amazing. Each person had their own problems, past, quirks, flaws, and personality traits. It was astounding to observe the characters, who were so different from each other, interact and work together toward a common goal. Della was definitely my favorite character. She's the woman who doesn't know her own strength but discovers it in her own moment of weakness. I loved her rambunctious personality and her ability to care for others more than herself.
Although the beginning of The Jazz Cage seemed a little slow, it picks up and races along at dangerous speeds. And after about 3/4 of the novel, I doubt any reader will be able to put it down until the last period. Great, satisfying read.
rating: 4/5 cups
Note of Source: From the author for review