Todd Komarnicki’s first novel takes its title from the nickname of its protagonist, Jefferson Alexander Freeman. Since he was seventeen, Free has been a homeless person in New Orleans, his memory of his origins all but gone. Imbued with the romanticism of despair, he flings himself through the stained glass window of the church of his friend Father Jessup Mobley in an attempt to embrace the child Jesus and his mother Mary. Some of the glass from this tragic gesture remains in his head throughout the novel, during which his image for his defiant isolation is the rhinoceros.
Free finds himself involved in the investigation of the murders of two Chinese immigrants and his friend Felulah Matin, a stripper in Wong’s Exotic Dance Club. Heroin smuggling, as well as illegal immigration, has something to do with the murders. Outraged by Felulah’s death, Free is worried that he himself might have had something to do with it.
Taken under the wing of Detective Agatha (Aggie) Li, Free insists on helping her solve the case. Their investigation brings them to Hong Kong, where they try to track down the source of the fleur-de-lis tattooed on each of the murder victims. They end up meddling dangerously with Shun Peng, a cunning tattooist; Early Thatch, the British middleman in a ring that smuggles Chinese illegal aliens and heroin to the United States, and Liu Hai, a corrupt detective.
Who is behind the smuggling operation and the murders,...
(The entire section is 361 words.)
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