Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Death Swatch by Laura Childs

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Death Swatch by Laura Childs. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Death Swatch by Laura Childs

Death Swatch by
A Scrapbooking Mystery with Carmela Bertrand

Berkley Prime Crime (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-425-22478-3 (0425224783)
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-22478-6 (9780425224786)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $23.95

Review: A Mardi Gras celebration turns into a murder investigation for scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand in Death Swatch, the sixth mystery in this series by Laura Childs.

Carmela is attending a gala at Jekyl Hardy's vast apartment in the French Quarter when the festivities are abruptly brought to a halt when Carmela and her best friend, Ava Gruiex, walk out onto the patio and find Jekyl's new neighbor, Archie Baudier, dying, a heavy barbed wire knotted tightly around his throat. While waiting for the police to arrive, Carmela notices that Archie's otherwise immaculate shoes were flecked with gold paint and an old coin lay near the body. She pockets the coin to look at it later just as the police arrive, realizing all the while she was disturbing a crime scene. Newly independent, her divorce nearly final, and anxious to prove she doesn't need a man in her life (but isn't the police lieutenant rather attractive?), Carmella and Ava take it upon themselves to solve the puzzling murder

There are few cities in the world where such a diverse cast of characters seem more perfectly at home than in New Orleans. The city also makes a terrific setting for a murder mystery, and the author takes full advantage of her locale to great effect in Death Swatch. Characters are introduced at a somewhat leisurely pace allowing the reader to get comfortable with them within the context of the plot, and there's a historical element that adds some depth and interest to their investigation. As befits a scrapbooking mystery, there are numerous references to the craft that are seamlessly integrated into the story. (Scrapbook, stamping, and craft tips are added as an appendix in addition to favorite New Orleans recipes.) Unmasking the killer isn't all that difficult as the clues tend to be of the connect-the-dots variety, but the strong characters and setting more than compensate making Death Swatch a pleasure to read.

Special thanks to Penguin Group for providing a copy of Death Swatch for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Amid zydeco rhythms and popping champagne corks, scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand and her friend Ava are partying in the French Quarter. It's Mardi Gras, and they never imagined this might be the scene of a murder, but as the evening progresses, float designer Archie Baudier is found dead on the balcony -- strangled with a barbed wire garrote.

The only thing wilder than this crime are the theories about who did it--from a ritualistic slaying to a mob hit to the outlandish work of a rival Mardi Gras float builder. Handsome detective Edgar Babcock isn't buying any of it. Neither is Carmela., and the odd clues are bringing out the sleuth in her: gold paint on the victim's shoes, a strange coin found next to his body, his ransacked apartment, and the peculiar fact that no one at the party really knew him. Only one thing is clear: Whoever killed Archie is following Carmela -- straight into the chaos of Mardi Gras.

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