Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

I’ve had the opportunity to visit New Orleans on two different occasions. While the trips were drastically different in terms of who I was and the maturity I had gained, or not, as the case may be. Although I was very young on the first trip and closer to middle aged on the second trip, in both cases I remember how apparent it was that  their “Laissez les bon temps roulant” was more a feeling that pervaded the area than just words that were fun to say. The laissez faire attitude of New Orleans was infectious and I hope it still is. It creates a unique place where you soak in not only the beauty of the region but the entire atmosphere.

It’s a treat to have found a book series that embodies that atmosphere and transfers the joy it engenders through its pages. The Cajun Country series by Ellen Byron is an enjoyable mystery series on its own, and when you add to that the people in the book who characterize so much of the attitude that is uniquely New Orleans, you have a sure fire enjoyable book series. No doubt it will have people anxiously waiting for the next installment. Here’s my review of Ms. Byron’s most recent installment for your consideration.

Photo by Michael Overton

Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron is the fifth in her Cajun Country series and is a welcome addition to the set. I’ve read all but one in the series, and found them all to be well plotted and entertaining. As in the other books in the series, this one is well plotted and entertaining with satisfying conclusions to both the mystery and some of the side stories that help make the secondary and tertiary characters come to life and give depth to the fictional town of Pelican, Louisiana.

This is a classic cozy book with not too much emphasis the murder and no grizzly details about dead bodies. It is rich in questions regarding who might have motive for killing and plenty of clues and red herrings to throw the reader off. The protagonist in the series, Maggie Crozat, is helping her grand-mere who has had the brainstorm of creating a Cajun Country Festival to be held in Pelican as a precursor to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. The star attraction is set to be Tammy Barker, a native of Pelican who has made it big in the industry.

From the moment Tammy steps off her tour bus she begins ordering people around like the diva she wants to be. Even before she arrived she booked Maggie’s family plantation, now a B&B in its entirety for herself and  select members of her staff. Early on, a rivalry between Tammy and Maggie’s best friend, Gaynell also rears its ugly head. Tammy acts like the epitome of a “mean girl” toward Gaynell, squeezing her out of activities, belittling her and making her doubt her own musical talent, even stealing a song Gaynelle has just finished writing and turning it from a ballad into a pop tune that will probably ruin it. Tammy is written in a way that she becomes easy to dislike, almost immediately

As in all good cozies, Maggie is compelled to investigate this latest murder. She is given an assist and also more information than might typically happen by her police detective fiance, Bo. His willingness to involve her in the murder is explained by referring to a severely understaffed police department coupled with an urgency to solve the murder before Tammy and crew move on to New Orleans for Jazz Fest.

There is no shortage of possible murderers, and Maggie manages to investigate them all, even while she is busy making pralines to sell at the festival, preparing for a bridal shower for her friend who is expecting triplets, and helping her grand-mere who is busy going through her things to accomplish a “dostadning” , which is Sweedish for death-cleaning. This involves sorting through many of her belongings in an attempt to reduce them and thereby save your family from the burden once you are dead.

The book is filled with secondary characters who are delightful in their own right. Byron has an excellent ability to write enough in just a sentence or two to make them come alive in your imagination. Most of the characters are ones you would like to know and they are spread across such a wide age span there is bound to be one or two who may become more like kindred spirits to you.

I highly recommend this book and series to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries. Each book has a mystery that is complete within the book, however if the reader likes to get to know the secondary characters as they unfold, it is best to read the series in order. My thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me an Advanced Digital Read copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Photo Courtesy Steven Byrd

So, now is your time to head to your local independent bookseller, local library or whatever other source you use to get books, and reserve this book. If you haven’t read the others in the series, start with them, it will be a treat to read several adventures for Maggie and her friends without having to stop and wait for the next one to be published. In any event, Happy Reading.