Mardi Gras is the ultimate festival for food, fun, and mayhem, which also makes it the perfect time and place for a fictional murder or two.
While Mardi Gras (also called Carnival in some countries) means “Fat Tuesday” in French, it really describes the entire season from Epiphany (January 6) to Mardi Gras day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (February 12 this year). The whole idea is to indulge with balls, parades, fun, and food before everyone settles down and gets serious for Lent which lasts 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
The balls and parades during Mardi Gras in New Orleans are put on by clubs called “krewes.” The krewe members ride on floats and often they are masked so no one knows their true identity. You can see—with all of the parades, parties, crowds in the streets, and hidden identities—why Mardi Gras could be an excellent place for a fictional murder in a novel or even at your own party. Here are some ways to celebrate Mardi Gras with crime fiction.
New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith
In New Orleans Mourning, the King of Rex (Rex is the biggest and most famous Mardi Gras parade), is gunned down during the parade by someone dressed as Dolly Parton. Smith’s female rookie cop, Skip Langdon has to find the killer in all the Mardi Gras mayhem.
Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown
This one starts out with policeman Burke Basile accidentally shooting and killing his own partner when a drug raid goes horribly wrong. Believing the criminals at the drug raid orchestrated the shooting, Basile vows to get vengeance.
No Mardi Gras for the Dead by John Donaldson
A New Orleans criminal psychologist named Kit Franklin, finds a woman’s body buried in her garden. She learns the dead woman was a hooker who died 27 years earlier, and the trail of the case is more than cold until a tie is discovered to a rich family who are great friends with the psychologist’s boss. Then things get messy.
Death Swatch by Laura Childs
Cozy lovers might prefer this story about New Orleans scrapbook store owner, Carmela Bertrand, who goes to a Mardi Gras party and finds a parade float designer dead. Carmela and her best friend immediately go on a quest to find the killer.
The Mardi Gras Mystery and Mardi Gras Masquerade by Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew liked Mardi Gras so much she and her beau Ned Nickerson went twice (neither time was in the original set of mysteries). The now out of print, Mardi Gras Mystery came out in 1988 and focuses on Ned and his college friends, a haunted house, and the theft of an old family portrait. Mardi Gras Masquerade, published in 2008, involves a masked Mardi Gras ball at a mansion that might be haunted and the theft of a tiara, but doesn’t have quite the focus on Ned.
Want to experience some Mardi Gras mayhem of your own? Here are two more ways for crime fiction fans to celebrate Mardi Gras, at home or in New Orleans:
Throw Your Own Party
If you want to throw your own Murder at Mardi Gras party, a company called BePuzzled makes the kit to help you including invitations, a CD, instructions for role playing and costumes. Party guests must come ready to help solve the murder of one of New Orleans’s most prominent citizens.
Provenza Leads Bacchus
Fans of TNT’s TV shows Major Crimes and The Closer who will be attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans can look forward to seeing G.W. Bailey, who plays Lt. Provenza, riding in the Krewe of Bacchus parade as Bacchus (the God of Wine) on Sunday, February 10. Bailey was selected by the krewe because of his work with the charity, Sunshine Kids, which helps children with cancer. Many of the children helped by the organization will also be riding in the parade.
What did I miss? What are some of your favorite Mardi Gras mysteries?