The Blue Door Review
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It’s March of 1962, and welterweight Eddie Cero is hobbling down the streets of South Philly. He’s just lost to “T-Bone” Mieux by TKO, brought on by an illegal head-butt that the ref conveniently didn’t see. His only wish now is to get a drink to dull the pain.

Eddie’s plans are interrupted when he stumbles upon a middle-aged man being thrashed about by some thugs. Even in his condition, he intervenes, and the assailants finally leave. The victim, Sal Giambroni, who knows his attackers, seems unfazed by it all. To thank Eddie, he offers to buy him a drink.

Eddie discovers that Sal is a P.I. After learning of Eddie’s beating, as well as his dismal financial situation, Sal offers Eddie an investigative job—which, by its nature, could be risky. Eddie declines, but he later realizes after downing too many shots that he agreed to come by Sal’s office the following Monday.

  
 
On one assignment, Eddie’s supposed to pose as an ordinary customer at the once upscale but now rather seedy nightclub, The Blue Door, to see if the bartender is dipping into the till. To his surprise, he discovers that the singer on stage that night is Valerie Pope, formerly of the Excels.

A huge music fan, Eddie recalls that the group broke up after its leader, Johnny Pope, mysteriously disappeared three years earlier. No body was found, and the case remained unsolved. Eddie decides to reopen the case, which leads him to numerous suspects and motives—not to mention dead-ends.

After reading David Fulmer’s exceptional novel, The Dying Crapshooter’s Blues, I was anticipating the same excitement from The Blue Door. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there.

Eddie’s side jobs are more interesting than the main plot. And the characters, from the Italian-American fighter to the black singer-turned-preacher, are too stereotypical. To make matters worse, Eddie’s motivation for even wanting to solve this mystery doesn’t make sense, though he constantly tries to justify it throughout the book. He had no interest in entering the dangerous world of private investigation, but suddenly he’s willing to risk his life and open up a case—for no client and no pay—that may have “organized crime” written all over it. He keeps investigating, even though each person whom Eddie approaches, one after another—including Valerie—either demands or advises him to drop it. It’s almost annoying, in fact, as you predict each of these redundant encounters.

Though Fulmer provides the reader with a detailed and interesting sense of the time period, he just scratches the surface of the record industry scandals that were notorious in that era. Had he gone more in-depth into that area, I could have possibly overlooked some of the book’s shortcomings.

I guess an author can’t always produce a gem, but I was disappointed by the follow-up to Fulmer’s The Dying Crapshooter’s Blues. Though the ending is a surprise, The Blue Door doesn’t have the substance to justify the tedious road getting there.

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