MEAN WOMAN BLUES
Don't let the title fool you. In this tense but melodramatic entry in Edgar-winner Smith's (New Orleans Mourning) Skip Langdon series, the story hinges on a mean man—sociopath Errol Jacomine, who, helped by plastic surgery, has reinvented himself as a charismatic talk-show host. As to women, several besides Detective Langdon figure prominently, each working herself into one rage after another. And blues? While most of the mayhem occurs in New Orleans, this Crescent City is devoid of music—blues or otherwise. Other Big Easy attractions, like the ornate statuary in the city's renowned cemeteries, lend local color, as do po'boys, levees and the French Quarter, serving as backdrop for the characters' internal lives. Without exception, these people bear deep psychic wounds, which become figurative and literal gashes as they endure murder attempts, unlawful arrests, defamation and torture. Emotional updates come as insistently as a Louisiana forecaster tracking a Gulf hurricane. Some mood shifts jar. Given to snits, con artist Jacomine repeatedly drops his guard. And when a near-comatose woman suddenly starts haranguing an FBI investigator, the scene rather than intensifying seems contrived. Likewise, coincidence looms larger than some readers will accept. Nonetheless, fans should welcome this overheated installment as eagerly as others in this well-established series. (Aug. 21)
FYI:Smith is also the author of Louisiana Bigshot (Forecasts, July 8, 2002), the second title in her series featuring African-American detective Talba Wallis. A former reporter, Smith has recently become a fully licensed PI in New Orleans.