Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron is the 2nd book in the Cajun Country Mystery series, nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.
Ellen Byron takes us to Louisiana for this Cajun Country mystery. Maggie Crozat’s long and distant relatives used to own the Doucet Plantation. Now, it’s the Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast, where tourists come for a glimpse of the past and a taste of the present. Maggie is busy planning a wedding. Her co-worker Vanessa Fleer is getting married to Police Chief Rufus Durand. It seems the town of Pelican will be greeting a new resident soon, as Vanessa is pregnant, making the speedy arrangement of the nuptials something everyone seems to have a vested interest in.
Vanessa, though in love with the Chief, is a little worried about his willingness to contribute child support should the marriage fail, so she makes him sign a legal document just in case. Practicality in a realistic world.
The job of being Vanessa’s maid of honor is not one people are beating down doors to take on. The responsibility falls to Maggie by default. However, there is a history. A grudge. One hundred and fifty years ago, Rufus Durand’s relative cheated on his fiancé, Maggie’s relative, with a lady of questionable repute. The story is that the slighted woman put a curse on all subsequent Durand relationships as a payback through the years. Maggie thinks the only reason Rufus is alright with her being the maid of honor is because it is such a hateful task, as Vanessa and her large range of relatives have a reputation of being extremely high maintenance.
The tension continues to rise steadily before the big day. To make matters worse, news circulates that Vanessa’s cousin, Ginger Fleer-Starke, is attending the wedding, which causes Vanessa to burst into tears. Maggie has a lot of work to do. Add to that a budding romance with someone that if Rufus were to find out would add considerably to the difficulties already looming on the horizon. Then, to top it off, there is a murder. Maggie finds herself a suspect, but she also takes on the role of investigator to get to the bottom of what happened. It is not an easy route.
Maggie’s anger grew as she read the story.
“That little…..! Listen to this, JJ, just listen. ‘Magnolia Marie Crozat labeled any mention of the murder as salacious and threatened a reporter with trouble if he pursued the story.’ That’s not what I said at all—I warned him to be careful because he could compromise the investigation with his stupid, cheesy tabloid story! He makes me sound like a mob goon. And here, listen tothis—‘A nearby police officer attributed Ms. Crozat’s dismissive attitude to a desperate and perhaps futile desire to protect her family’s business at all costs, even if it meant belittling a heinous crime.’ Now he’s putting words in Artie’s mouth too! But does he name him? Of course not. He knows Artie would clean his clock, which is exactly what I’m going to do when I get my hands on that weasel.”
Maggie leaped off her barstool and ran out the door. Seeing Little Earlie a block ahead, casually strolling to his car, she tore down the street after him.
“Hey!” She yelled.
“Hey, Earlie, wait up, do you hear me? I said, wait up!”
Little Earlie did the opposite of waiting up. He picked up speed and ran for his car.
The murder is just the beginning, as it sets off a range of intriguing events that prove many people are not what they seem. Maggie seems to have a talent for rubbing the veneer off people to reveal what is really beneath their superficial mask. As the list of suspects grow, so does the body count.
Ellen Byron serves up a veritable feast of different characters, all twisting and turning to keep their own particular secrets hidden from those they would rather keep in the dark. The climax keeps you guessing right up to the end.
If you like strong flavors in both your books and your food, then this is definitely for you. There are even recipes at the end of the book to help you on your way and get your taste buds moving in the right direction. A couple of examples are “Turkey Dinner in a Braid” and “JJ’s Jambalaya.” The Louisiana expression for “a little something extra” is “lagniappe.” In Body on the Bayou, Ellen Byron has provided a lagniappe for everyone.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.