reviewed by Gail Byrd
The Louisiana Bayou has a vibe all its own that reflects its people, its cuisine, its history, and its proximity to the mighty Mississippi. Almost everyone I’ve ever met has wanted to travel to the area, particularly to New Orleans and surrounds for the experience.
Reading a book in the Cajun Country Mystery series by Ellen Byron can serve as almost the next best thing, and Cajun Kiss of Death is no exception. From the first page the reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of Cajun life.
Maggie Crozat, now Maggie Crozat-Durrand, has been the central character in this series of books, surrounded by her family, her history, and her love for her ancestral home. Like the Bayou area, the Crozat family, as well as the people of imaginary Pelican, Louisiana, where the books take place have a unique style you won’t want to miss. If you’ve had the opportunity to travel to this most southern area, the sights and sounds that are told throughout the book are sure to bring back memories of your visit. If you haven’t managed to visit there yet, then they are sure to make you want to book a trip soon.
This is the seventh book in the series, although the mystery stands alone. If you have the time, it is recommended that you read the series in order, starting with the first book. There is so much history that belongs to the Crozat family and the lives of the townspeople grow in such interesting ways, you will enjoy watching the changes as much as you’ve enjoyed watching your own family and neighbors.
The book opens with Maggie’s and Bo’s wedding and quickly moves into the rest of the story as fast as the newlyweds and all the guests form a second line and dance back up the aisle. Next stop the Crozat plantation for a Cajun feast. The food at the feast creates conversation about the celebrity chef in town who is scheduled to soon open his newest restaurant, Chanson’s Cajun Kitchen. In true southern hospitality, everyone welcomes the new venture, including JJ, Maggie’s friend who owns the best Cajun restaurant in town.
Chanson and his group run through their welcome at lightning speed. From stealing recipes that are family heirlooms to setting JJ up for health department violations, it becomes apparent the people of Pelican have welcomed a cutthroat, no-holds-barred restaurateur. Readers won’t be surprised when he is murdered, and some might even think that, although murder is a bit extreme, perhaps in this case he had it coming. Because the murder occurs on the water and he’s a well-known person from out of state, numerous agencies come together to form a joint investigation, including the Coast Guard Investigative Services. Their help is appreciated by the tiny Pelican police office, but there are mixed feelings when detectives focus on both JJ and Maggie’s mother Ninette, as potential suspects. While Ninette is quickly ruled out, focus on JJ increases which spurs Maggie’s efforts to solve the case.
There are at least two side stories that create interest along with the murder. First is the embezzlement of the entire bank account belonging to the non-profit historical site of Doucet, the plantation once owned by Ninette’s family and now a combination living history site and museum. Without some immediate help, they may not be able to continue operating. Second is Bo’s valentine’s gift to Maggie, art lessons with a world-renowned artist currently a guest of Tulane University. To say the lessons have some unexpected results might be an understatement, but telling what exactly might spoil some of the book.
One last note, there is an epilogue to the book that readers of the series won’t want to miss. DON’T read it ahead of time, it will spoil some of the ending and should be savored, as perhaps Byron intended, as a nightcap to top off the entire story. As always, there are also some Cajun recipes cooks will likely want to try. The book is easy and fun to read, the mystery is well-plotted and the reveal is satisfying, whether or not the reader solves it before finishing the book. On multiple levels, this is an excellent addition to one of the best cozy series to come along in a while.
My thanks to Crooked Lane Books Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy for review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.