by Tina Chambers and Chapter16.org
In Erica Wright’s new Kat Stone mystery, death hits a little too close to home.
By Erica Wright. Polis Books. 320 pages. $26
In Erica Wright’s new crime novel, The Blue Kingfisher, private investigator Kat Stone is exhausted. Ever since leaving her undercover assignment with the NYPD, she’s been looking over her shoulder. Despite having more wigs and assumed names than there are days in the week, Khalida-Kathy-Katya-Kennedy-Keith-Kacey-Kitty-Kay knows that drug-trafficking crime boss Salvatore Magrelli will find her eventually.
And when he does, he’ll be looking for revenge. (After all, she did send his brother to prison.) Even worse, he might make her an offer she really does want to refuse—her life in return for joining his organization. Kat understands what she has to offer him: “Salvatore didn’t have someone on his team who could disappear in a crowd. My talent wasn’t exciting as, say, cracking safes, but maybe it had value in the shadowy world of drug trafficking.”
Kat continues to work as a P.I. while waiting for the other concrete overshoe to drop, but it’s not footwear that she finds during a rare moment of peace in a park near her home—it’s the body of her building superintendent draped over the widow’s walk of the lighthouse adjacent to the George Washington Bridge:
The victim was long past first aid, his skull smashed and limbs twisted into impossible angles. His body looked churned, as if caught in the claws of some great beast. His eyes were open, staring up at the bridge, and I turned to stare too, half expecting to see the monstrosity come to life and swoop down on us. There was no demon, though, only the solemn overpass and a few streaks of sun trying to push through the clouds. Neither heaven nor hell, it was just an ordinary day except for men falling from the sky.
Kat’s investigation leads her into an underworld of another sort—illegal immigrants so desperate for work that they fall prey to unscrupulous business owners and others who seek to profit from their plight: “Below the poor in the city, there were the hopeless, people who’d come for a better way of life and found themselves in a hell they couldn’t escape.”
Disguising her identity yet again, she takes a job as a booking agent for The Blue Lagoon, a fishing boat operating out of Coney Island. As she snoops around the boardwalk, Kat begins to attract the attention of law-enforcement colleagues from her past and soon has two new offers to consider. But she is determined to plot her own course and solve the mystery on her own terms.
In The Blue Kingfisher, Erica Wright—a Wartrace native who is also a poet—continues the story of her dauntless detective in this third volume of a series that began with the award-winning The Red Chameleon. Wright populates Kat’s gritty world with potential suspects (a shady pawn shop operator, a renowned artist who crafts exotic masks, etc.), as well as Kat’s regular cast of colorful friends, including a Russian émigré wig-maker and the star drag performer at The Pink Parrot bar. Crime-fiction fans will enjoy the suspenseful twists and numerous red herrings that Wright packs into this tale of greed, family, fear, and—despite everything—something like grace.
For more local book coverage, please visit Chapter16.org, an online publication of Humanities Tennessee.
About the Author:
A graduate of Auburn University, Tina Chambers has worked as a technical editor at an engineering firm and as an editorial assistant at Peachtree Publishers, where she worked on books by Erskine Caldwell, Will Campbell, and Ferrol Sams, to name a few. She lives in Chattanooga.