Run Baby Run – Michael Allen Zell

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“He’d been in two worlds his whole life. His tender spot. What gave him perspective and experience beyond most people. It was also what could wound him to the quick like nothing else. Why he lived in two worlds. Not quite fitting in either. Wondering which person he was. Here he was at the source of it. Simultaneously close and far from his family.”

Bobby Delery, 43, left New Orleans with his father at age fourteen, and hasn’t been back in thirty years. As a criminologist, he taught at the University of Chicago, but now has decided to return to his hometown and take a position at Tulane. Unbeknownst to him, that contract would involve occasionally assisting the local police force.

One million dollars has been taken from the safe at Club Big Easy, which means someone stole from a Russian gangster. There’s already a dead body, and the police chief wants the perp caught before this mobster finds him.

So, right away, the New Orleans PD has requested Delery’s services. What puts him at a disadvantage is that what he learned about criminology was only through books. Also, being an outsider, most in the police force don’t trust him and don’t want him involved. But a major part is Delery’s aching desire to find his true “home” and actually himself.

Yes, the plot may sound all too familiar and you’re probably thinking that you’ve read it before. However, the gritty tone, setting, plot deviations and emphasis on character give Run Baby Run its unique and extraordinary edge. This slim novel entices us with quirky supporting players such as the church-going Miss Melba and Toe, the very white graffiti artist, who weaves in and out of the story. However, they represent so much more.

As in author Michael Allen Zell’s Errata, the city of New Orleans is a central theme.  This time it’s post-Katrina and the city seems to be trying to re-discover itself.

My only complaint is that I didn’t want the story to end. I hope that Run Baby Run is only the first of many in the series of Bobby Delery and New Orleans life.

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