82 Desire

Julie Smith, Author
Julie Smith, Author Fawcett Books $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0-449-00060-1
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The latest in Smith's series of Skip Langdon mysteries (following Crescent City Kill, 1997) gets a fresh infusion of life from a richly realized and memorable character, a young African American woman named Talba Willis, who is a poet and aspiring PI. Skip is a policewoman who had been assigned to Homicide in lushly described New Orleans, but the squad has been broken up and assigned to the city's various districts. Skip is working in a fairly upscale neighborhood when she is sent to investigate a missing persons case. Russell Fortier, an executive at United Oil Company and the husband of city councilwoman Bebe Fortier, has vanished. He may have just walked away from his marriage. Or he could have been kidnapped, even killed. Also hot on the case are Jane Storey, a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and Talba, otherwise known as The Baroness de Pontalba. Skip, Talba and Jane are caught up in an investigation that is being choreographed by a mysterious tipster who is feeding them information. But what is the tipster's own agenda? The probe into Russell's disappearance heats up even more when Talba's employer, PI Gene Allred, is found dead. Smith crams a full cast and plenty of plot twists into her complicated story, in which the New Orleans atmosphere and Talba, with her fierce wise poetry, shine brightest. The Baroness could have her own series any time. (Sept.)
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