Berkley Prime Crime (2019)
A New Orleans Scrapbooking Mystery (Book 16 of 16)
by Shirley Wetzel
It’s the beginning of the Jazz Fest, and the French Quarter is even more crowded and festive than usual. Carmela Bertrand and her BFF Ava Gruiex were sipping mimosas from their geaux cups and watching the giant puppets and creepy vampires march down Royal Street when they hear a series of huge crashes nearby. Royal Street is home to several high-end antique shops. As the ladies follow the growing crowd, they realize the sound came from a shop they know well. Dulcimer Antiques is owned by their friend Devon Dowling, and the window of his shop is shattered. Devon doesn’t answer Carmela’s calls, but she can hear the frantic barking of his pug Mimi. Carmela makes her way into the building and picks up the terrified dog. She finally locates Devon, lying on the floor, his blood soaking into a priceless Persian carpet. The EMT’s arrive quickly, but they are unable to save him.
NOPD Detective Edgar Babcock comes in to take charge of the crime scene. He’s not happy to see Carmela there, but he’s not surprised. His fiancée seems to have a knack for getting involved with murders. Her information in this case is useful, but he reminds her, as he always does, that she should leave the crime solving to the professionals. As always, she promises to do so. She might even mean it.
She has enough going on in her life as it is. Her Memory Mine Scrapbooking Shop is growing like gangbusters, and there are still many restaurants and clubs she and Ava have yet to explore, fund-raisers and soirees to attends, and a wedding to plan. Babcock is pushing her to set a date for the wedding, and she’s thinking about it, a lot. To complicate matters just a bit more, her ex-lover is opening a trendy new kind of wine bar right next door. It’s a “paint and sip,” bar for ladies who want to drink wine and do crafts. He wants Carmela to handle the crafts part, and she’s tempted, even though she knows Babcock will be steamed.
Promises or no promises, when the police seem to be making little progress, Carmela and Ava do some investigating of their own. Was Devon’s murder a robbery gone wrong, revenge by a client he’d wronged, some crazy person targeting French Quarter shopkeepers? What about the rumor that Devon had acquired a piece of Abraham Lincoln’s coat? Might his slightly shady assistant be involved, or the tall, pale and handsome pseudo-vampire?
The crime-solving duo takes some risks, but normally things turn out alright. This time they pull a TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) stunt that boggles the mind. Never let it be said that Carmela and Ava lack courage, even if their common sense is not the best.
MUMBO GUMBO MURDER is the latest in Childs’ Scrapbooking series, and it has the same charm and fun of the previous books, with a well-plotted story. New Orleans is a vibrant city with characteristics found nowhere else, and the author makes good use of its uniqueness. Readers will feel that they are walking the crowded French Quarter streets with all the revelers and merrymakers, taking in the scrumptious smells of food wafting from the many restaurants and cafes, delighting in the historic architecture, and washing it all down with Hurricanes and margaritas to geaux.
Ms. Childs, who is also the author of the Tea Shop Mysteries and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries, has another winner. Recommended.
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