King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich

King Zeno

New Orleans, 1918. The birth of jazz, the Spanish flu, an ax murderer on the loose. The lives of a traumatized cop, a conflicted Mafia matriarch, and a brilliant trumpeter converge--and the Crescent City gets the rich, dark, sweeping novel it so deserves.From one of the most inventive writers of his generation, King Zeno is a historical crime novel and a searching inquiry into man's dreams of immortality.New Orleans, a century ago: a city determi...

Details King Zeno

TitleKing Zeno
Release DateJan 9th, 2018
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Crime

Reviews King Zeno

  • Fran
    Isadore Zeno is a cornet player in 1918 New Orleans. He could make his horn "squawk, weep, chatter, groan..." "He could do things with the cornet that nobody else knew to try". Playing jazz would not put food on the table but petty theft might! A string of robberies and murders by "ax" had occurred. It had been determined that a serial killer, an "Axman" was stalking the city. Izzy decides he better apply for work on the construction of the Indus...
  • Meike
    New Orleans in 1918/1919: Jazz is on the rise, construction for the great industrial canal begins, and the city is terrorized by an ax murderer – all of these things really happened, and Nathaniel Rich mixes fact with fiction when he interweaves three narrative threads circling around those events. Isadore “King” Zeno is a struggling jazz musician who tries to break through as a cornet player while finding ways to provide for his family. Wh...
  • Emily May
    Look, I am a little bit obsessed with New Orleans. A lot of kids while I was growing up fell in love with the romanticism of Paris, the big powerful city of New York, or the beachy glamour of Los Angeles, but I have always been fascinated by NOLA. Jazz! Paganism! The French Quarter! Mardi gras! Beignets! When I finally visited a few years back, the magic was as I'd hoped it would be. It felt like it's own little mystical world, separate from the ...
  • Tim
    Inconceivably dreadful. Zero 4 Zeno. 0 of 10 stars
  • Jarrett
    Challenging to get into at the start with lots of unfamiliar names and separate plots. Read the first 50 pages a few times over before getting into the story. However last 2/3 of the book was great with well woven plot that brought together race, jazz, New Orleans, the mafia, and the Spanish flu.
  • Andy Weston
    The premise of the book is certainly an attractive one, a city terrorised by an axe murderer, set against the backdrop of a New Orleans in the midst of the Spanish flu epidemic, with the birth of jazz and the the onset of prohibition just around the corner. Unputdownable you might think, but no. Rare for me, but I am critical of the amount of violence in the book as it seems quite unrelated to much of its content, dealing with a set of characters...
  • Matthew
    When visiting New Orleans for the first time a number of years ago I was instantly enamored. By its history, its architecture, its culture, and most of all its music. Even in the wake of Katrina the city felt alive at any hour of any day. It pulsated with vibrancy. I couldn’t help but get caught up within it. And I didn’t even bother venturing down Bourbon St.Nor did I have to. My truncated history course divulged plenty but left me wanting m...
  • Tad Richards
    Ultimately, an engrossing, clever plot, very good mise en scene of New Orleans right after WWI, before Prohibition. But the plot takes a while to get going, and for me, the characters took a long time to coalesce—to make me feel them as real.My main issue with the plot, and I’ll try to phrase this so it isn’t a spoiler. Everyone seems to figure out who the ax murderer is, and I’m not sure exactly how.I do recommend the book. Not unreserve...
  • Greg Zimmerman
    4.5. First appeared at 1918 New Orleans, a serial killer gruesomely hacked his victims to death with an axe he often stole from the victims themselves. The so-called Axeman of New Orleans was never apprehended. Meanwhile, construction was just beginning on a massive canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, bisecting New Orleans's Ninth Ward. A Spanish Flu outbreak in the city killed...
  • Galen Weitkamp
    King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich.Review by Galen Weitkamp.In the early twentieth century, New Orleans was the home of Joe “King” Oliver, Kid Ory, Louis “Dippermouth” Armstrong and in Nathaniel Rich’s novel set in 1918, King Zeno, otherwise known as Isadore Zeno. Slim Izzy’s cornet “growled like a bear, hissed like a snake, and sang like a meadowlark...He slurred and growled and klaxoned...He played the happy parts melancholy and the mela...
  • Becky Loader
    I am familiar with the actual events the author uses as the center piece of his story about an ax murderer in New Orleans. He manipulates events very well, but quite frankly, there is one too many story lines here. The descriptions of the Black Hand and the corruption in local government are very vivid, but I had trouble with some of the characters.
  • Cindy
    I’m a fan of New Orleans. There’s good and there’s bad but there’s always the magical, especially about the past. Like the primordial swamp, there are layers upon layers, forests upon forests and people, their lives and loves, upon each other. The author captures the mood of a city in the swamp wanting to rise above those layers, the past, like the mud, tugging them back. Their struggle is the story. Rich is able to paint a picture of thi...
  • nikkia neil
    Thanks Farrar, Straus and Giroux and netgalley for this ARC.King Zeno is like no other book I've read about New Orleans. Its dirty, gritty, and real. This is not glamorous look at jazz, war, or the cops.
  • Sam Law
    Set in the New Orleans of the early twentieth century (summer 1918 to be precise), it follows the intertwined tales of three fictional characters, as they navigate the brothels of Storyville, bayous, the reek of the slums, concert halls, city jail, and the Mafia, while coping with the real-life reality of the Spanish Flu and the “Axman of New Orleans” decimating the city population. There is also rising racial tension between the police and t...
  • Aaron Mcquiston
    "King Zeno" is the story of New Orleans in 1918/19, the story of the starts of jazz in America, the digging of an industrial canal the connects the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain and splits New Orleans from the Upper 9th Ward to the Lower 9th Ward, and a serial killer, the Axeman, who terrorized New Orleans. Nathaniel Rich takes these stories and knots them together, making for a narrative that is pretty tough to get into in the beginnin...
  • Paul
    Actual rating: 3.5 stars.I was struck by how strongly this novel resembled the period novels of Dennis LeHane: "The Given Day," "Live By Night," to mention just two. Both authors place their characters in American cities in the early 20th Century, acting out stories in front of a backdrop of historical events. In "King Zeno" the backdrop is New Orleans in 1918, and includes the crossover of jazz music from black society to white society, the deva...
  • Marge Anderson
    A fun read, especially if you're a NOLA buff. What do a serial killer, a WWI vet with PTSD, and a coronet genius have in common? How does the digging of the Industrial Canal and the Spanish flu epidemic figure in? Read it and find out. One thing I found troubling is the complete lack of the reality of racism in social institutions in the Jim Crow south, which would have been as obvious as the Mississippi mud (which gets significant coverage.) Did...
  • Michelle
    This is the story of three New Orleans characters in 1918-19 New Orleans, struggling with their daily life against the backdrop of a real New Orleans serial killer. One, an Italian mob wife managing a canal construction project, two, a struggling jazz musician who works on the canal, and three, a cop on the case of the serial killer. I really wanted to like this more, as much as I love jazz, New Orleans, mysteries, etc. But the characters were un...
  • Annie
    Nathaniel Rich’s King Zeno is the second novel I’ve read recently that takes on the Axeman Murders of New Orleans—which is fitting since it’s been a century since the still-unsolved murders were committed. (Read my review of The Axeman, by Ray Celestin.) This fictional take on the murders rotates between a police officer with PTSD, a widow who heads a major construction project in the city, and a jazz cornet player. King Zeno is stuffed w...
  • Kim McGee
    New Orleans 1918A city of new beginnings now that the war is over and the birth of Jazz has begun to catch on or is it a city sliding back into the swamp facing corruption, racial tension and murder? Jazz is the newest thing to catch fire but few musicians can make a living of it. Instead they must act as laborers building the new canal or fall into illegal means that make more money. The Spanish Flu is sweeping through the city taking it's toll ...
  • Janet
    This book was a bit confusing and hard to get into at first, but I stuck with it and eventually found it very absorbing. It takes place in 1918 New Orleans, where "jass" (not called jazz yet) is finding its roots, a serial axe killer has not been found, and the canals are being dug. The book focuses on Detective William Bastrop, a WWI vet who suffers from guilt about his actions in the war, as well as PTSD (certainly not diagnosed at the time), I...
  • Paul
    Not a great novel, but it gets three stars for having a great setting: New Orleans at the end of World War I. How many people understand what a pivotal year 1919 was? Spanish flu, race riots, the rise of jazz and the emergence of the United States as a global power -- 1968 was a sleepwalk by comparison. And if Mr. Rich isn't a great storyteller, there's something Googleable on every page: was there really an "Axman" murderer? What powered the mac...
  • Eric
    I pulled this novel off the library shelf because it promised musical history, social history, a mystery and a setting about which I have read very little (both time and place). When I began reading I was not sure I had made a good choice. I had a hard time adjusting to an unfamiliar and what felt to me like awkward rhythm to the storytelling and the stark, almost brutal presentation of the people, the times and the physical conditions of New Orl...
  • Kristine
    King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late January.Mindful, observant, and wiley storytelling of theft, mugging, and ax murders in a New Orleans of 1918, where the police force is spread too thin, jazz venues abound, there's threat from the Italian mob, industrial labor teams build the city from the ground up, and the Axman (suspect) is on the loose. My favorite parts to read were about the push and pull relationshi...
  • Ann
    This is a pretty long book -- set in the early 1900's in New Orleans. It opens with newspaper accounts: a fairly brutal murder and a series of 'highwayman' robberies. At 20% it's not gone much beyond that. One policeman was killed by the highwayman, but they arrested the wrong guy. And a cornet player can't get music work so he's working on the effort to build a canal from the lake to the river. I found it very confusing and just couldn't get int...
  • Mariann
    There is a lot going on in this novel. It's got 2 or 3 interesting storylines and dips into many different aspects of New Orleans history from 100 years ago. I was drawn to the novel because of a recent trip to New Orleans, and loved how it really captured some of the atmosphere of the city. As the NYTimes review mentions, it deals with a lot of big issues similar to the way E.L. Doctorow does in Ragtime. And it doesn't gloss over anything. Impre...
  • Brian
    A murder mystery or sorts set in New Orleans at the end of WWI. It follows 3 characters: a jazz prodigy struggling to break out, the matriarch of an Italian crime family, and a war-scared detective. All the characters are rendered really well, and in general I think Rich is a super good sentence writer. The star of the show is New Orleans during the Spanish Flu. But I think the story itself is sort of a let down.
  • Scott Pomfret
    A rich portrait of early 20th century New Orleans life peopled by a number of complex and distinct characters--and an equal number of less well-imagined folks. The plot centers on the murderous "Axman" terrorizing the city at the same time it is afflicted by the great flu epidemic. The identity of the killer becomes quickly apparent, but the author does a good job keeping the suspense on how (or if) he will be brought to justice. That said, the p...
  • Carole Knoles
    In the novel “King Zeno” author Nathaniel Rich imagines a scenario about the never solved serial murders by the so called “Axeman” in 1918 New Orleans. The imagination is teased out around the stories of a jazz coronetist, a guilt ridden policeman, a mobster’s widow and her son. The building of the canal that played a part in the Katrina devastation is also a player in the story. I loved the book and it has a place in my library of New ...
  • Trina
    Good mystery novel set in New Orleans in 1919. Characters are interesting but the plots get a bit thick. Mostly I was interested in the settings because I’m fascinated by Nola history, and that part of the book was well done. Mysteries are always hard for me to read because I just read continuously until I finish. I prefer novels I can savor a bit more.