Excerpt from Empire of Sin by Gary Krist, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Empire of Sin

A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans

by Gary Krist

Empire of Sin by Gary Krist X
Empire of Sin by Gary Krist
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 432 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
Empire of Sin

It was, in many respects, the most brutal assault so far: a two-year-old child killed instantly by a single blow to the skull; her critically injured parents rendered senseless by multiple head traumas. Clotted gore soaked the bed where they all lay. Across the walls and curtains around them, blood spatters radiated like birdshot. And yet, despite this evidence of what must have been a savage frenzy of violence, no one in the neighborhood had heard a thing. The perpetrator had been able to escape without a single witness to the crime, and with hours to spare before his deed was detected. The axman was apparently becoming even more adept at his trade with time.

The crime had been discovered at about seven o'clock on a Sunday morning. Several neighbors had made earlier visits to the grocery, which usually opened at five a.m., and had merely walked away when they found it closed. But one little girl named Hazel Johnson was more persistent. After getting no response at the front door, she decided to try around back. In the alley leading to the rear of the building, she found a chair set up below a side window. She climbed up on the chair and peered inside, but couldn't see anything in the murky morning light. So she continued down the alley to the backyard. There she found the back door closed, but with one of its lower panels missing. Puzzled, she called a passerby into the yard, and he persuaded her to go inside, perhaps because she was small enough to fit through the missing panel. She crawled in—and moments later burst out the back door, screaming.

Aroused by this clamor, a young neighbor named Frank Jordano ran over with his aging father, Iorlando. They found Charles Cortimiglia half-conscious on the floor, and Rose Cortimiglia clutching her lifeless toddler and sobbing inarticulately. Her husband, Charles, roused out of his stupor by the younger Jordano, sat up on the floor. "Frank," he said. "I'm dying. Go for my brother-in-law." It was the last thing he would say for several days.

Since the town of Gretna was in Lafayette Parish, Peter Leson, chief of the Gretna police, and Lafayette sheriff Louis Marrero would conduct the investigation of the Cortimiglia case, with Superintendent Mooney's force merely assisting from afar. What Leson and Marrero found at the scene, however, indicated that the crime was clearly related to the previous year's cases across the river. The axman's signature modus operandi was obvious—from chiseled door panel to rummaged belongings, with little sign of anything of value actually being taken. This time, a box containing money and jewelry was found undisturbed in the bedroom, along with $129 in cash hidden under the Cortimiglias' mattress. But two trunks and a dresser had been practically torn apart in some kind of frenzied search; even the face of the mantelpiece clock had been pried open and examined. As in the other axman cases, however, no fingerprints were found anywhere, and any footprints in the yard had unfortunately been trampled by the curious crowd of neighbors that had gathered at the scene after hearing Hazel Johnson's screams.

The discovery of two axes on the premises—one bloody and obviously the murder weapon, another covered with fresh mud—led Leson to believe that two men might have been responsible for this attack. Perhaps one had stood on the chair in the alley to keep an eye on the victims—and simultaneously on the street—while his partner worked on the back-door panel to gain entrance. This two-perpetrator idea could even illuminate one nagging aspect of the earlier attacks. Having an accomplice could explain how the axman was so successful at eluding detection, even while chiseling away at a back door—an activity that must have been noisy enough to be heard by anyone lying awake in bed or passing on the street. In other words, the axman may not have had wings (as the impressionable Bruno girl had speculated), but he could have had a second set of eyes—keeping a lookout while he performed his grim duties inside.

Excerpted from Empire of Sin by Gary Krist. Copyright © 2014 by Gary Krist. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard
    19 out of 21 of our First Impression Reviewers rated Louis Bayard's latest novel, Courting Mr. ...
  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...
  • Book Jacket: Disappearing Earth
    Disappearing Earth
    by Julia Phillips
    On the remote peninsula of Kamchatka—tucked away on the far eastern corner of Russia and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Women Rowing North
    by Mary Pipher


    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Her Kind of Case
by Jeanne Winer

A highly-recommended emotion-filled legal drama with three starred reviews!

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.