Sugar Pop Moon
A Jersey Leo Mystery by John Florio
Review: The year is 1930 and the Prohibition Era is still in full swing. The place is Hell's Kitchen, New York where alcoholic beverages are routinely bought, sold and consumed illegally. It is the home of honkytonks, saloons and speakeasies. Working as a bartender at the Pour House is Jersey Leo, known on the street as "Showball", an albino born of mixed parentage: his mother is white and his father is black. While his boss is away for a few days, Jersey purchased what he believes to be top grade moonshine, Sugar Pop Moon, but he actually buys cases of worthless, nasty tasting booze. He knows his boss would kill him — literally — if he didn't get the money back, so he sets out to do just that in Sugar Pop Moon, the first mystery in this series by John Florio.
The mob lord who sold the nasty tasting alcohol is from Philadelphia. The only one he could trust to help him was his absent father and a teen-ager who helped him in the bar.
Reading this winning debut crime thriller is a throwback to a time when people had to hide if they wanted to drink or gamble, and yet they did it with delight and laughter. Drinking, dancing, gambling, with mobsters killing mobsters and anyone who got in their way, was the way of life for many. Sugar Pop Moon is filled with characters of varied backgrounds, temperaments, and educations. Anyone who has seen movies of the Prohibition Era will easily visualize the mobsters while reading. Jersey Leo keeps his humor while being taunted as an albino, fashioning him into a strong, likeable character.
There is a lengthy backstory set in 1906, the year Jersey was born, which unfolds in alternate chapters and covers the period of time when Jersey's father Ernie, a prize fighter, was the state champion. And as a black man, that wasn't acceptable to some, who ultimately bribe and then coerce him to take a dive. This subplot is interesting on its own, but its length seems an excessive disruption to what is otherwise a fast-paced novel.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Sugar Pop Moon.
Acknowledgment: Seventh Street Books provided a copy of Sugar Pop Moon for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Sugar Pop Moon: New York City; Philadelphia
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Sugar Pop Moon by John Florio — A Jersey Leo Mystery
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 2013
List Price: $15.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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