Genre: cozy mystery
New Orleans is in the throes of another fantastic Mardi Gras celebration when the party gets crashed by a murderer. Now a scrapbooking sleuth is going to have to stop the partying to catch the killer...
There's a parade rolling through the historic French Quarter, with gigantic floats, silver beads, and dizzying lights - and Kimber Breeze of KBEZ-TV is broadcasting live from a small balcony on the fourth floor of the Hotel Tremain, interviewing locals and capturing the spectacle down below. Her next subject will be Carmela Bertrand, owner of Memory Mine scrapbooking shop. Carmela has never been a fan of Kimber, but she isn't about to turn down the chance of good publicity for her shop.
But before Carmela's shop gets its five minutes of fame, a killer slips onto the balcony and strangles Kimber with a cord, leaving her body dangling above the parade. Carmela is horrified, but she quickly discovers the nightmare isn't over. Because someone is now leaving strange postcards at Carmela's shop - signed by the dead Kimber. Now Carmela and her friend Ava will have to risk their own necks to find out who's posing as a ghost - and to expose a killer...
I am such a big fan of Laura Childs’ work, she was one of the first cozy mystery authors I started to read, and her books never disappoint me. She is a master at painting the scene, the atmosphere, and of course her characters. This series is placed in New Orleans, and the city itself is a big secondary character. I love it.
Mardi Gras is in full swing in New Orleans, and KBEZ-TV is broadcasting live. Carmela Bertrand is waiting to be interviewed for the program in the ballroom of Hotel Tremain, with about 50 other partying people. If she knew it was Kimber doing the interviewing, she might not have done this, but some free advertising for her scrapbooking shop, is never something to decline. While waiting for her turn, Carmela and her best friend Ava are cozying up to the cameraman, who is working from a distance this time, as the balcony is almost two small for two people, let alone with all the equipment he handles. But when something suspicious happens on screen for a second, it is Carmela who rushes out to Kimber, only to find her missing at first glance, and then hanging by a cable from the balcony. Some revellers in the street below have seen her, and start screaming. It is not a pretty sight, and Carmela wishes she could unsee it. But where did the killer go so fast? Did he jump to the next balcony, or up the fire escape to the roof? Then hotel security storms into the room, and on the balcony, and finally the people inside start noticing that something dreadful has happened, and they panic and start leaving the room. Carmela knows this is bad, they are potential witnesses, and they need to stay here, but there is nothing she can do about it. And so when the police arrives, there is almost no one left to question.
Carmela’s boyfriend and police detective Edgar Babcock is the second officer at the scene, and he is not pleased at all to find Carmela there. He knows she did not get along with Kimber, who has tried to frame her before.
Of course Carmela cannot help herself, she needs to investigate this murder, of which she was almost an eye witness, even though Babcock warns her off. She has to, what if it was her ex-husband’s best friend? Who was the last to be interviewed by Kimber. And who is leaving those spooky postcards for her to find? Like Kimber is sending messages from beyond the grave to Carmela to solve her murder? She does not really want to tell Babcock about them, but her shop assistant Gabby is smarter and does so anyway.
There are suspects galore, as Kimber was not a nice person, and she had started research for some criminal investigations. Like her own brother, who desperately needs money to keep his alligator farm going, and Kimber was not known for helping others. And what about the creepy new neighbour, Joubert, who is the owner of the Oddities shop next door?
I love this series a lot, mostly because of the vivid descriptions of New Orleans, the food they eat, the parties and restaurants Carmela and Ava visit. Like they are never home, or at work for that matter. Carmela has a scrapbooking shop, she is a designer by trade, and does a lot of workshops and fun projects. Of course her shop assistant Gabby is very competent, but she really is gone a lot.
Ava runs a voodoo shop, and is always at Carmela’s side when investigating. Dressed to the sexy nines, always looking for the next man to have fun with. Carmela is more quiet than Ava, but she still joins in the fun. She keeps running into her ex-husband Shamus a lot, and his horrible sister Glory. Carmela enjoys her little apartment and her quiet life, instead of the huge mansion in the Garden District they used to live in. It is the one thing she got out of the divorce settlement from Shamus, and now she is ready to put it up for sale. Her good friend Jekyl Hardy, who is an antiques dealer, interior decorator and a superb designer of Mardi Gras fleets, helps her with the photo’s.
I really think I enjoy this series more for the atmosphere of New Orleans, than the mystery part. I feel like I know the way around there, without ever having set foot in New Orleans (or America) myself. Yes, New Orleans still suffers from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but some parts a bit less than others. Both Carmela and Ava are just full of life, and they enjoy themselves with good food and wine, and parties. Although Carmela enjoys a quiet evening with her dogs too, it is not often that Ava lets her be. It is just fun to read, and entertaining.
And yes, the mystery was a good one, although I did solve it a few chapters before Carmela did.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian