Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Story Description: 

Publisher: Ray Chen Smith|June 12, 2012|ISBN: 978-0-9857332-1-6 (Paperback)  978-0-9857332-0-9 (e-book) 

Prohibition-era mobsters collide with Underground Railroad abolitionists in The Jazz Cage.  It is 1924 – sixty years after the South’s victory in the Civil War. 

Frank McCluey, bounty hunter for the mob, is sent to help out a wealthy Virginian bootlegger.  Frank’s job: track down two female slaves who’ve run away from the millionaire.  But the mob has made a bad choice.  Instead of capturing the women, Frank decides to help them escape to Canada, his mission now aided by the pint-sized but steel-willed runaway Della and the outlawed Underground Railroad.  Soon Della and Frank become the target of slave catchers, cops, gangsters and most chilling of all, a Confederate agent nicknamed the Hound for his ability to always sniff out and disembowel his prey. 

My Review: 

One of the best drama/suspense novels I’ve read in a long while! 

It has been 60 years since the Confederacy won the War of Southern Independence, and the year is now 1924.

Della and Cece have escaped from the millionaire who owned them, they were coloured slaves trapped in a horrible living situation with this man.  The night they escaped they almost got caught by a Federal Slave Agency police officer but thanks to a drunk who was making noise near their hiding place, the FSA Agent quickly turned his attention away from the bushes Della and Cece were hiding in.  Once he rode away on his horse, the two women took off and ran to the place where they were to meet the contact that was picking them up and taking them to a safe house. 

After waiting several minutes they thought they’d missed the pick-up time when they suddenly heard the sound of a truck approaching and it was indeed, Levi Tubbs, their abolitionist contact who was to take them to a safe house. 

With a few days under their belts in the safe house, Della was worried that maybe Levi wasn’t who she thought he was.  It had been over a week and he hadn’t answered any of her questions and she and Cece hadn’t been moved out of this first supposed safe house.  She thought Levi was working for the Underground Railroad but she wasn’t so sure now.  Is Levi really helping Della and Cece? 

Frank McCluey, Barney the Beak, and Isaac Rothstein were on a 100 foot schooner that left New York Harbour a few hours earlier.  Barney had stolen diamonds from the syndicate a year earlier and Lucky Luciano was head of the syndicate’s Southern operations and was smuggling booze and in Listerine crates. 

Raymond Wills – a “toad faced” man was a whiskey tycoon who lived in a large mansion.  After feeding Frank and Isaac lunch they retired to his office to talk business.  Raymond wanted them to find the two escaped slaves (Della and Cece).  Learning that Frank and Isaac would soon be leaving their line of work, Raymond Wills offered them a donation to their retirement fund on top of what Lucky Luciano was paying them if they returned the escapees to him. 

Frank and Isaac managed to get Levi’s name from a policeman who helped a drunk the same night Della and Cece escaped.  They went to interview Levi under the guise that they were interested in purchasing one of his whipping machines used to whip slaves.  They later returned to his home to try and see if they could find any type of paperwork connecting him to the Underground Railroad. 

The headquarters of the Fugitive Slave Agency was located in downtown Richmond, Virginia.  Special Agent Herbert Basset – the Basset Hound was 35 years-old.  The Director explained to him that two nights previous, four of their agents along with Levi Tubbs had vanished into thin air.  The FSA had learned that Levi was helping escaped slaves.  The agents had arrested a man named Owen Lightfoot, son of Samuel Lightfoot who were Southerm aristocracy and president of the “real” railroad – the Norfolk Western Railway Company so they were surprised to learn that Owen would be involved in Underground Railway.  They also wanted to know why Owen was working for Levi Tubbs. 

In the meantime, Frank McCluey catches up with Della and Cece and after much convincing manages to make them understand that instead of turning them in, he wants to help them escape to Canada so they can be freed.  But what they must face to accomplish this goal will take you on a rollercoaster ride like no other that you’ve been on before! 

The Jazz Cage is filled will drama, suspense, thrills, and is the most heart-pounding reading you’ll do in a long time.  At over 300 pages I just couldn’t put this down and ended up staying up til the wee hours of the morning to finish it one go!  Don’t miss this one, you won’t be disappointed.  It is well-written, the character development amazing and the plot is unbelievable!!  Congratulations Mr. Smith on a well-written novel!! 

Thank you to Ray Chen Smith for providing me with a copy of this book to review.  The opinions expressed here are purely my own and I received no compensation for my review.

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  1. Sounds like a fascinating book. I enjoy the time period that the book is set in and the storyline sounds fast and fun. Thanks for sharing!

  2. DMS:

    Believe me, it IS fast and fun for sure! I know you're going to enjoy it.

    Happy Reading!

  3. Thanks for the great review. Hope your readers enjoy it!

  4. Ray, you're more than welcome. It was an exciting, dramatic, and suspenseful read that kept me turning page after page after page!