In 1930s Harlem, the music is hot, gambling is big business and the parlor of N’Gana Frimbo - an African immigrant and famous fortune-teller - is full of people anxious for help with their problems, at all hours of the night. But one night something goes wrong. Frimbo is dead, and the customers in the parlor become the prime suspects. Detective Perry Dart is called to investigate, with the help of John Archer, a physician who lives across the street. Evidence quickly emerges to implicate one of the customers, Jenkins, whose bumbling friend Bubber Brown takes on his own investigation in hopes of clearing Jenkins. Will Bubber succeed or will he get himself into more trouble? Who is the real killer? And what happens when the body suddenly goes missing?
The deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes meet the fast-talking wit of 1930s movies, all set in the world of the Harlem Renaissance, in The Conjure-Man Dies. This 1932 detective novel is the first written by an African-American, and it’s not only an intriguing mystery but a brilliant evocation of its time, place and experience. The witty exchanges between Dart and Archer and the comic relief supplied by Jenkins and Bubber Brown lighten the mood (although, as noted in the introduction, some of the language would be considered offensive today; readers should keep this in mind). Early forensic techniques are on display, further grounding the story in this fascinating historical era. This reprint edition also includes a short story that brings Dart and Archer back together to solve another mystery, making the enjoyment last a little longer. - Michelle (Sunset)
Learn more about the Harlem Renaissance and the “New Negro Movement” with a photo exhibit starting soon at the Chandler Museum: Black and White in Black and White: Images of Dignity, Hope, and Diversity in America, June 29 - Oct. 17, 2021.