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Though her plot careens with as many twists and turns as a car chase through the French Quarter, it is Smith's rotating focus on the complex viewpoints of her fully formed characters that gives her sixth novel its psychological and emotional depth. On Mardi Gras, civic leader and socialite Chauncey St. Amant is about to be crowned Rex, King of Carnival, when someone costumed as Dolly Parton shoots him dead from his best friend's balcony overlooking the parade. Is the killer aimless, promiscuous daughter Marcelle? Homosexual, mistreated son Henry? Helpless, alcoholic wife Bitty? Female rookie cop Skip Langdon uncovers a cast of intriguing characters, all as much Chauncey's victims as they are suspects in his murder, most of them inhabiting a ``poison garden of corruption'' and substance abuse where it's not just on Mardi Gras that everyone wears a mask. Praised for the local color she delivered in Huckleberry Fiend and Tourist Trap (set in San Francisco), Smith has researched the Big Easy exhaustively. While she does not paint its hues or diffuse its smells as vividly as she dissects its social strata, review getting wordy, tho well written/mc her rich, tightly structured narrative more than compensates. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
The wild festivities of Mardi Gras take a backseat when the King of Carnival is shot to death by a mysterious guy decked out like Dolly Parton. One of New Orleans' oldest, proudest, and richest families soon becomes the source of numerous suspects for policewoman Skip Langdon. Distantly related to the city's aristocracy herself, Skip seems like the obvious choice for heading the investigation. Obvious to everyone except herself. It's nice to meet a female cop who doesn't look like Farrah Fawcett or crack wise with every utterance. The author of Huckleberry Fiend [BKL O 15 87], among other mysteries, and an original voice in the genre, Smith handles her elite New Orleans society angle with style, providing a welcome change of pace from the jazz-and-gumbo fare that too often becomes cliched in New Orleans-based mysteries. Though her novel is overlong, Smith is adept at character studies and can pinpoint the offbeat detail with relentless precision. --Peter ~Robertson