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Cover image for Cold steel rain
Cold steel rain
Publication Information:
New York : Putnam, ©2000.
Physical Description:
386 pages ; 24 cm.
Number in series:
When both Danny Chaisson and Mickie Vega are set up as scapegoats, they combine forces to fight politics as usual in New Orleans.


Call Number

On Order



Kenneth Abel's first mystery, Bait, was hailed by kings of the genre. "One of the finest crime novels I've ever read," said James Lee Burke. "A gripper all the way," praised Elmore Leonard. Robert B. Parker summed it up in a word: "Brilliant!" Now, Abel makes good on the promise of that debut with a mystery set against the murky world of New Orleans politics, where debts may be postponed but not forgotten, and old loyalties can be unexpectedly betrayed. Danny Chaisson is an up-and-coming prosecutor until his longtime benefactor, a Louisiana political boss, calls in his chit. Chaisson performs as commanded, but resigns from the D.A.'s office to preempt additional collisions of conscience and politics. He stoops to running small-time errands for the politico as a second career, until he narrowly misses being present for a lethal hit at a local restaurant. When it looks like he'll be sacrificed as the fall guy in a complex game of public culpability and political spin, Danny goes on the run. He soon allies himself-first professionally, then romantically-with Mickie Vega, a woman from ATF who's also been set up as a scapegoat. The stakes are high and his odds poor, but Danny has a few tricks left to play before he'll be dealt out. Combining pitch-perfect dialogue with plot twists reminiscent of L.A. Confidential, Abel has delivered a crime novel tour de force.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Following his well-received debut mystery, Bait, Abel introduces former assistant D.A. Danny Chaisson in a gripping tale of political misdoing and murder set in New Orleans. Now working for a powerful state legislator, Danny is responsible for delivering wads of political payoff money around the New Orleans area. Things start unraveling when five people die in a restaurant shoot-out, two of them Danny's friends. Soon various odd characters get into the act: Jimmy Boudrieux, the corrupt speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives; his chief legislative aide, Lucas Clay; the New Orleans police; beautiful ATF agent Mickie Vega; Jimmy's daughter, Maura; Danny's ex-wife, Helen; a crooked parish deputy and a crooked land developer. Danny, of course, must sort it all out. While the third-person point-of-view requires readers to deduce characters' loyalties from their statements and actions, Abel cleverly inserts tidbits of information to indicate who is on the good side and who is allied with whom. The novel moves fast, yet it retains an atmospheric aura of lethargy. The New Orleans setting is well integrated into the story; the weather descriptions, the slowness of people's daily activities and the duplicity of many of the characters' actions combine to create a dense miasma of sleaziness. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

It rains a lot more in New Orleans than in New York, but otherwise it's business as usual for Abel ( The Blue Wall , 1996, etc.), who this time trains his gimlet eye for mobsters, bagmen, and crooked cops on the Big Easy. Three years ago, A.D.A. Danny Chaisson's long-time patron Jimmy Boudrieux asked him to torpedo a case against a troublemaker who'd otherwise roll over on Jimmy. Danny, mindful that Jimmy had, among other favors, sent him to Tulane, did the dirty and resigned from his job the next day. Now he works for Jimmy, doing errands he'd rather not think about. When he's sent to pick up a suitcase from small-time crook Dewitt Foley and goes back into the restaurant on a just-remembered errand, he finds Foley and four others dead, in a massacre that might have been lifted from L.A. Confidential . Everything that follows, though, is pure Abel. There's Danny's slow dance among the cops looking to place him at the scene and the mobsters looking to nail down the loose ends by eliminating him. And there's Danny's faster dance with his ex-wife Helen, now one of Jimmy's lawyers; with Mickie Vega, the ATF agent he could love if only she'd quit presenting herself as a juvenile caseworker; and with Jimmy's trash-talking daughter Maura, whom he's just passing those long rainy nights with while he waits to see who punches his ticket first. The trail of the fatal gun takes Danny to some of the toughest ghettoes in the city, where Abel shows boys getting killed for trying to act like men, and his memories take him back to his father's suicide—a fate he has a hard time imagining he'll avoid. A familiar story made fresh by the way Abel takes apart crooked Louisiana politics (is there any other kind?) and makes you care about every last one of the quick and the dead.

Booklist Review

Danny Chaisson resigned from his job as assistant district attorney three years ago to work as a bagman for New Orleans political boss and state senator Jimmy Boudrieux. Danny is resigned to his fate--his old man worked for Boudrieux, too--but then he inadvertently witnesses the murder of a gun runner by Boudrieux's henchmen. Tying up loose ends, Boudrieux puts out a contract on Danny. Life becomes a dangerous cat-and-mouse game for Danny as he scrambles to stay alive while working to bring Boudrieux down. The first in a proposed series of Chaisson novels is a complex, tightly plotted, moody nail-biter in which very little is stated but all is gradually revealed. The impression Chaisson makes early is not the one readers will take away. In the end, Chaisson will endear himself to Dave Robicheaux fans, who will have no trouble imagining the two melancholy crime busters discussing life over chicory-laced coffee and a couple of beignets some steamy New Orleans morning. Among the best first mysteries to have appeared this year. --Wes Lukowsky