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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tiger Rag

Tiger Rag, by Nicolas Christopher.

Dr. Ruby Cardillo's life is falling down around her, and she just might be losing her mind as well.  Her daughter, a budding jazz pianist, has just finished up a stint in jail for a drug offense.  Charles "Buddy" Bolden is a jazz age legend whose career dissolved when he slid into lunacy.  Mother and daughter take off on an impromptu, nearly self-destructive trip to New York City, and along the way their family history begins to reveal itself as the younger Cardillo gets pulled into a search for the holy grail of a long lost recording of Bolden, the only recording known to exist.

This book successfully intertwines three stories -- of Buddy Bolden, of modern-day Ruby Cardillo and her daughter, and of the early years of Ruby Cardillo.  Of the three stories, I found the story of Bolden to be the most compelling.  However, after a slightly rocky beginning with the modern-day portion of the story, all three strands of the story captured my imagination and had me hurrying to turn the pages to see what happened next.  I absolutely adore books that combine a present day story with a search to solve a historical mystery, a la The Forgotten Garden, Blackberry Winter, and The House Girl, and this book ranks up there in the top with the best of those types of books.  I don't really like jazz much, but this book almost had me looking up old jazz age greats!

The only problem I had with this book is that the issue of Dr. Cardillo's weird actions, which appear to be a slide into insanity, and which we learn are completely out of character for her, are never explained.  She just suddenly is getting better at the end of the book as the final mysteries are revealed.  I really would have liked that one last thread to have been woven back into the story before the book was complete.  Aside from that, however, this book was a thoroughly enjoyable read. 4.5 out of 5.0.

I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher.  That did not affect my review of this book in any way. 

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