MUSIC AND MALICE IN HURRICANE TOWN
by Alex Bell
Published by Stripes Books
Low on money, with a sick father to look after and rent to pay, trumpet player Jude Lomax jumps at the chance to play at a jazz funeral in her home town of Baton Noir with the Done and Dusted Brass Band. It’s only later she discovers the funeral is for Ivory Monette, the infamous cajou queen who was murdered in town days earlier. After an unexpected event involving cajou magic occurs at the funeral, Jude finds herself possessed by Ivory’s spirit who demands that Jude help find out who murdered her. In return, Ivory promises to use her magic to ease Jude’s father’s suffering.
Ivory’s quest for revenge sees Jude travel beyond her comfort zone as she brushes with death and the darkness of Baton Noir in order to discover the truth – not just Ivory’s but her own.
Author Alex Bell returns after Victorian doll horror Charlotte Says with this delectable, magical story infused with jazz, set in the captivating streets of New Orleans-inspired Baton Noir.
New Orleans has always been a city that intrigued me. A hotbed of music and culture, it seems to offer so much yet I know so little about the place. Having never been to New Orleans myself, I was delighted to discover this young adult novel inspired by that very place and wondered what journey I might be taken on. It didn’t take long for the author to catapult me into a world that I felt I could physically see, smell, hear and touch, purely from her writing; a place so alien to my own but so alive and thriving, even if fiction is blended with reality. A tale of an ordinary girl named Jude, forced into a world of witchcraft and high society, one that she has been managed to avoid, is a story that the reader can easily connect with. Jude, much like the reader, is experiencing some of these things for the first time. What is alien to her is also strange to us however it’s clear that Jude is aware of the unfamiliar sights around the fictitious town of Baton Noir even if she’s never dabbled herself. Cajou magic, for instance, is heavily used within the book and it was interesting to see how Bell’s version of voodoo plays out within the community of Baton Noir.
MUSIC AND MALICE IN HURRICANE TOWN‘s lead character Jude Lomax is a tomboy of sort. With her short, red pixie cut, dungarees and swamp boots, Jude seems ready to get her hands dirty and doesn’t shy away from a fist fight judging from observations from both her father and best friend Sharkey. However, when we first meet Jude, she’s been on the receiving end of a beating from her landlord due to non-payment of rent. When she’s handed the invite to play at a jazz funeral, she knows she has to attend. It isn’t every day that she or one of her jazz musician buddies gets chosen to play at an esteemed jazz funeral, the type of funeral that is only reserved for the rich or esteemed members of society. Plus, she desperately needs the pay after being rejected from her regular place of employment, Moonfleet Manor, the night before. She could never have guessed what would occur at the funeral but low and behold, she finds herself stuck with the spirit of a vengeful old witch inside her body who has a habit of taking over her voice and body at times as well as flooding and invading her memories. With Ivory Monette inside her, and Ivory’s trusty white python Beau that seems to manifest itself out of thin air, Jude sees a side to life she would never have ever witnessed. Brushing shoulders with royalty (vampires, descendants, etc), she’s thrust into a world so alien to her own with only Ivory Monette to guide her and keep her out of trouble. You begin to question what you would do if you were in Jude’s shoes and what, if anything, you’d approach differently.
Throughout the novel, author Alex Bell deals with many emotions: grief, hurt, rejection, abuse, kindness, love, family connection and trust, just to mention a few. Her characters are multi-dimensional and have layers to them that we slowly unravel as the story progresses. These layers help to bring Bell’s characters alive and makes them more than what they first appear on paper. Much like the setting, the characters become living, breathing individuals that the reader can invest in, one way or another, and I found myself hanging on every single sentence, hoping that Jade would succeed.
As a young adult novel, I’d say this book is aimed at the 14/15 year old plus audience with the story also dealing with death, emotional abuse in a relationship and other horrors that may be too heavy for the younger teen. It has the right amount of wickedness to it that will keep you entertained as well as some vicious, bloodthirsty scenes that may even make you squirm in your seat.
Whilst MUSIC AND MALICE IN HURRICANE TOWN culminates nicely and could very well be accepted as a standalone novel, the story itself hints at a sequel and one that could offer up more horrors, history and cajou magic than what we’ve already been treated to. I personally would love to see Alex Bell continue this series as it’s quite refreshing to have a powerful female lead in such an extraordinary setting.
If you like the idea of a supernatural adventure thriller laced with black magic and jazz, then this is the book for you.