Deceptive and boozy Louisiana: New Orleans Mourning, Julie Smith
Part of my Mysterious USA Challenge
0804107386 (ISBN13: 9780804107389)
Edgar Winner, 1991
New Orleans Mourning is the first in the Skip Langdon series and introduces the likeable and unusual character. Skip is the daughter of social-climbing parents; her father: doctor to the richest families in New Orleans. She’s is over six feet tall, described as large and with crazy hair, likes to drink and smokes the occasional joint.
Considered a black sheep by her family and people she grew up with for what she does for a living, Skip is looked at as an “uptown girl” and distrusted by other cops.
Skip is too proud to admit she wants to prove to her fellow cops that she is good enough, and the murder of Chauncey St. Amant, Mardi Gras king or Rex, in front of thousands as he is paraded through town on a float, gives her the chance. Skip is working the Carnival route and witnesses as someone dressed up as Dolly Parton shoots Chauncey in front of the reveling crowd.
Having grown up with most of Chauncey’s family and friends, Skip is in a unique position to find who killed the apparently beloved and respected Chauncey.
As Skip investigates Chauncey’s death, she uncovers a series of secrets and lies that makes Skip question everyone she knows and reaffirms her decision to become a police officer.
Smith keeps you guessing, not revealing the whole story until the final pages and keeping readers on their toes until the end with a good series of red herrings and clues that may or may not lead Skip to the truth.
The description of high society in New Orleans was fantastic. The racial tension, the drinking, the different standards different members of society are held to—all come together to form an interesting picture of New Orleans: so distinct and unique, and also so similar to many elites around the globe.
The beginning of the book explains the ins and outs of Carnival, how it became such a large celebration in New Orleans, and how it is currently celebrated. For example, I didn’t know about the krewes, or Carnival organizations. They march in the parade and have a ball on one of the Carnival nights. Every year, the krewes elect a REX, king of the Carnival.
As the novel goes on, the author continues to sprinkle the local flavor, including Skip teaching her west-coast love interest about New Orleans slang, food, and drinking during working hours.
The novel was entertaining and was perfect for this challenge.