My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Out of the Blues is Trudy Nan Boyce’s debut novel in the Sarah “Salt” Alt series. Despite her near-death at the hands of a killer, Alt can’t stop herself from searching for the truth, no matter how dangerous it is. Maybe that’s why she prefers to work alone–no partner to endanger. Though her first assignment as a newly-minted detective should be safe–it’s a cold case determined to be suicide–she quickly becomes enmeshed in Atlanta’s underbelly of homeless, power brokers, and soul-searching Blue’s music in an investigation that turns out to be anything but safe for Salt and those around her.
While the story may not be new–gritty novice detective gives her all to expose injustice–Boyce’s approach certainly is. First, because of the author’s experience as an Atlanta detective, her characterization of Salt–as Lisa Gardner says–makes her if not the best new series character in ages, close to it. Sarah Alt is well-developed in her backstory, dialogue, and actions as a gritty, strong-minded, self-sacrificing detective, always aware of minute details and subconsciously able to connect them to find answers. Besides her cleverness, she has fascinating traits–like she has a dojo in her home, talks to a dog in her dreams, keeps sheep in her backyard (with a sheepdog to herd them), and carries cigarettes to give to anyone she might interview. This quote is pretty typical of what you’ll find in the story:
“The bureaucrats are plentiful there and all knee-deep in pissed-off.”
And second, readers can’t fail but be pulled into the tantalizing world of the earthy musicians who play for their soul, not money. Mostly, that’s because of Boyce’s voice. She authentically adopts the rhythm and atmosphere of the Blues’ music that drives her story. Every bit of action is blended with descriptions of Blues, the musicians, and the world they inhabit. It doesn’t take long–fifty pages maybe?–to feel drench in that world, part of their struggles, and understanding of whatever might motivate their decisions.
Overall, a fascinating read, especially if you like Blues. Then, it’s a page-turner.
More atmospheric novels:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.