The Mobster’s Lament is the third instalment in the City Blues Quartet, which charts the duel histories of jazz and the mob. In this instalment, the story has moved to New York City in 1947, when Ida Davis has been asked to assist her old mentor Michael Talbot find a killer and help release his son from prison and a possible death sentence.

Ida is travelling to New York, thinking over a job offer with the government while she is on her way to help Michael Talbot investigate a brutal killing spree at a Harlem flop house that his son has been accused of. Little do they realise that their investigation will bring them to the attention of the New York mob.

At the same time, Ida’s childhood friend is back in New York after a tour and, like many traditional jazz players, Louis Armstrong is on his uppers. He is looking to try and restart his career, which has been usurped by bebop and bookings are getting rare. A promoter approaches him with a strange request. He is too skint to turn it down and so takes the chance to revitalise his career.

Gabriel Leveson, a mob fixer, wants out of the mob life, and he needs to get out pretty soon as he is guilty of skimming money off a mob fiddle. When the mob finds out, he knows he is a dead man walking, so he has a tight window to get out. When Frank Costello tasks Gabriel with a job to find a missing $2 million, he knows he is up against time and could well be going up members of the mob. Whichever way he looks at it, things will get very messy.

Ida and Michael realise they need to work with Gabriel, but can they really trust him? Will he kill them once he has found what he needs? Or do they take the risk and hope for the best, so that they can get charges dropped against Michael’s son?

Whatever they decide, they need to get on with things because each of them is on a deadline. That deadline is looming large and all three need each other.

This is a brilliant instalment in the quartet, a gripping read with plenty of twists and turns. You are kept guessing until the very end. Ray Celestin has once again delivered a quality thriller that keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end. It will be a shame when this series comes to an end.

Paul Diggett 5/5

The Mobster’s Lament by Ray Celestin
Mantle 9781509838936 hbk Mar 2019