(From the author):
Fifteen-year-old Brun Campbell hears Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag
, then runs off from his home in Oklahoma to take piano lessons from Joplin in Sedalia, Missouri. Coming into town late at night, Brun finds the body of a young woman by the side of the road, panics, thoughtlessly pockets a couple of clues, and runs off. Next day, he locates Joplin and persuades him to be his piano teacher, and then finds work with John Stark, the 58-year-old owner of a music store.
When a kindly southern gentleman who befriended Brun his first night in town is arrested for the murder of the young woman, Brun is certain he's innocent. But if the boy shows anyone the clues he found with the woman's body, he'll implicate Scott Joplin, and probably himself as well. Those clues become Brun's albatross, spurring him to exonerate his benefactor without putting himself or Joplin into the man's place.
Girls and women are a mystery to Brun, and the behavior of a thirteen-year-old girl with extreme religious conviction, a couple of mischievous prostitutes, and an attractive young woman with ambitions and a hint of scarlet in her past complicate Brun's pursuit of the killer. Eventually, the boy gets in over his head, and John Stark decides to set aside his age and respectable position in town to join forces with Brun. But in the end, Walter Overstreet, doctor, mayor, and closet alcoholic, may decide the outcome.
This thought-provoking crime novel, populated by real people and incorporating well-documented historical facts, explores aspects of the legacy of slavery in America which still cuts deep, and cuts both ways.
Original title: The Ragtime Kid
Genre: Fiction→ Crime and Mystery→ Detective Story and Detectives→ Historical