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By Ace Atkins

Thomas Dunne Press, October, 2000 (HC) $22.95.

Reviewed by Rick McMahan

Ace Atkins's second book featuring Nick Travers is LEAVIN' TRUNK BLUES.

Travers travels from the Mississippi Delta to the Windy City of Chicago searching for answers to a decades old mystery from the era of the electrification of delta blues.

Ruby Walker, once a queen of blues with a honey-sweet voice, is sitting on death row for the brutal stabbing murder of her producer. Travers has been corresponding with Walker for one of his research papers. Many other blues historians have tried to talk to Walker, but she's refused them all. Now she tells Nick Travers if he'll travel to Illinois, in the spirit of Christmas, she'll give him her exclusive story.

Travers's journey takes him back to "Sweet-Home," Chicago's south side and its rougher side of Cabrini Green housing projects in search of answers to what really happened on that fateful night in 1959.

Just as Ace Atkins makes the reader feel the oppressive heat and smells of the Delta, he makes one feel the icy wind blowing off of the Great Lakes and the cold reality of urban decay and lost dreams.

I hope Ace Atkins will take Nick Travers on more blues jaunts in the near future.

The first book in this series is CROSSROAD BLUES.

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