Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'New Orleans Mourning': Murder and Social Politics in the Big Easy

Review: NEW ORLEANS MOURNING (Fawcett 1990)
Author: Julie Smith

For readers who enjoy tough female detectives, Skip Langdon fits the bill. She's the protagonist in NEW ORLEANS MOURNING, born to a couple on the Crescent City's social register, though she's rejected their ways in favor of becoming a cop. Not at all your conventional Southern Belle, Skip's a tall and large-boned woman and a mass of neuroses, who just doesn't fit into the whole New Orleans society mileau.

Although Skip's just a city beat cop when the story opens, she has ambitions of making detective. So when the King of Carnival at Mardi Gras, a political up-and-comer named Chauncey St. Amant, is murdered by a gun-toting Dolly Parton look-alike and Skip's put on temporary homicide detail, she's all over it like red beans on rice.

Chauncey St. Amant is a man of humble origin who married into New Orleans society through his wife, Bitty – a woman who enjoys a nip from the bottle now and then (i.e., almost always). Chauncey is highly-regarded, but somewhat controversial, for his progressive views on racial equality. He and Bitty have two children, Henry and Marcelle. Altogether, they make a most intriguing (and secretly) dysfunctional family. (Along with Uncle Tolliver, who has his own issues and is almost a part of the family.)

Skip's job is to use her society connections (such as they are) to gather inside intelligence that may help crack the case. As one brought up among the New Orleans society set, Skip knows the St. Amants personally, and Marcelle seems to warm up to Skip (though they were never close as kids), while Henry tries to freeze her out. Meanwhile, Skip gets involved with a visiting L.A. filmmaker who has managed to capture the shooting on film. However, the filmmaker's mugged and the only copy of the film stolen.

The story is more than a mystery. It's an exploration of New Orleans society and politics . . .

For more, go to: http://mysterycrimefiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review_of_new_orleans_mourning

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