Let me paint you a picture. It’s August 23rd, 2005 in Louisiana. The levees just broke, water begins a fast and furious pace to your homes, and everything surrounding you.
Your government has failed you. Rescue attempts, and basic amenities are hard to come by. Whether you want to or not, it’s best to leave your house, and all the comforts of home to find safety.
As help comes, it is necessary to mark the houses that have been checked to see if anyone has been left behind. Even when the waters recede, it is evident that a disaster has ransacked not only your house, your neighbors house, but the entire city you have grown to love.
How can you forgive what has happened? How could the government do better? Would this kind of devastation cause you to leave, or dig your heals in to help your city find what was lost in the storm: it’s Magic, it’s Voice, and it’s Luck?
Fast forward six years, and our main character Jude Dubuisson is ready to stop straddling the worlds of god and men, causing trouble on both sides, and face the real world again. You see, Jude Dubuisson was born with a gift; a gift from his father who he had never met. He had always been good a finding lost things. Following the devastation of Katrina, it was better “being nowhere and nothing, than feeling all the loss.”
The breadth of his unique gift grew with him. From simply finding lost toys, to finding finding lost people. And when the levees broke open, his magic responded in the same way, only it was uncontrollable. Enough that he bought himself a pair of gloves so that he wouldn’t accidentally touch someone to feel their loss. Since Jude was able to somewhat control his magic, he also needed to make a living. And what better way than a street magician. His shtick? Finding lost things of course! Mostly for young people so they wouldn’t get in trouble with their folks. After a customer leaves behind their cell phone, Jude receives a call from his former partner, Regal Sloan, trying to throw him back into work.
A favor is being called in by the fortune god, Dodge Renaud, to attend a poker game. The entrance was masked in a magical ward that actively pushed any passerby away (physically making them cross the street). Going into a house Jude goes through a red door and can’t believe his eyes. This was not an ordinary poker game- this game included a vampire, an angel, Papa Legba- king of voodoo, Thoth- keeper of scribes, a fortune god, and Jude. Instead of poker cards, tarot cards were used. Each player playing to effect the fate of someone in New Orleans- people Jude knew. Jude new he didn’t have a clue how to play, and the god players are hoping he fails. Each god wants something different from Jude- the vampire wants his blood, Papa Legba wants his voice, and the angel wants his faith. When it’s time to turn the cards over, he notices that all of his cards are blank. Seeming like he lost, the most acceptable thing to do is try to back out of the game before the gods can collect on their bets- Jude falls back into darkness and wakes up in his apartment fast asleep.
Regal calls Jude in the morning explaining that the fortune god of New Orleans has been murdered. Regal chauffeurs him off to his former employer Mourning to hash out the details of the killer. The murderer has to be one of the five card players from the game the past night, not excluding Jude who is having trouble remember things after he blacked out in his apartment. The first step in the magical crime investigation is to attempt to find Dodge in the underworld. Summoning a god though only manages to make the red door appear- and Regal and Jude walk through not knowing what they’ll find. At first glance it is an empty room, but as they start to move around they get snapshots and stills of evidence, ending with Dodge on the table, his throat slit. When they come full circle to where Jude was sitting, one of his blank, upturned cards has an image on it. It’s the Magician tarot card- and it has his face on it.
From the summoning sends Jude and Regal on a whirlwind of sleuthing. Questioning every god that was seated at that table, while being followed by a mysterious shadow that Jude can’t seem to shake. With the red door constantly following him, what exactly is it trying to tell him? And why do the gods keep disappearing?
Oh this book (and I mean this in the best possible way). Almost each chapter starts out with a paragraph of poetry describing the differences in gods and religions in the most tasteful and politically correct way. I was hooked by chapter two in the epic god poker game, and Bryan Camp continued to suck me into the rich history of New Orleans trying to rebuild a dying city.
Each character had such dimension- extremely well thought out and developed, and each holding a crucial piece to the mystery of the death of the fortune god. I honestly cannot find a single complaint with this book. In the author’s note of this book, Camp states this is not the book he set out to right; the meat of it is still there IE the gods and monsters. I have to say, I’m not sure what your original direction was going to be, but I am super stoked that this book is the final product, especially for a debut novel. I do hope this series continues, as I am now a die hard fan of “Crescent City”.
I was contacted directly from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt if I would be interested in reviewing “The City of Lost Fortunes” if I would provide an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all. “The City of Lost Fortunes” by Bryan Camp on shelves now and can be purchased here!