Berkley, Sep 2008, $23.95
Three years has past since The Hurricane placed New Orleans on life support but the city is returning as symbolized by the Mardi Gras. At least that is the opinion of Memory Mine scrapbook store owner Carmela Bertrand. Accompanied by her friend Ava, owner of a voodoo shop, they attend a party tossed by Jekyl Hardy who introduces them to float designer Archie Baudier. When Carmela goes to leave she finds Archie dead with barbed wire wrapped around his neck.
Jekyl asks Carmela to investigate Archie’s murder as she has done successfully before (see FRILL KILL). She agrees and shows him a coin she found on his balcony where Archie died. With Ava’s help she begins the inquiries at the apartments of Jekyl and Archie where she finds their hidden compartment containing the deceased’s coin collection. Carmela is stunned when she finds out that Archie was an absinthe drinker which is illegal. As she follows the clues, someone is watching her just in case she gets too close to the truth.
Three years since Katrina wiped out the city leaves the story line with a gothic background that enhances the riveting cerebral amateur sleuth while also asking where the Marshal Plan is to rebuild New Orleans and the nearby parishes. Carmela is terrific as she has come a long way baby from the wimp she once was whose spouse abused her emotionally and mentally; in fact she demands a fair settlement from him as they divorce. The case proves how independent and courageous she has become as even a Russian mobster fails to scare her off. Although why she took on the investigation even for a friend is never adequately explained, readers will appreciate the latest scrapbooking cozy with a great final twist and tips and recipes.