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P.I. on a Hot Tin Roof: A Talba Wallis Novel

Julie Smith, Author . Forge $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-1255-6

The spirit of Tennessee Williams's Big Daddy hovers over Smith's winning fourth Talba Wallis mystery (after 2004's Louisiana Lament ), in which the hip African-American PI goes undercover as a maid to investigate a shady New Orleans judge, Francis Champagne (aka "Daddy Buddy"). Armed with housecleaning lessons from her mama, Miz Clara, and her righteous detecting skills, Talba discovers more than she bargained for in Buddy's mansion. Besides providing an absorbing portrait of the decline of the Louisiana shrimping industry, Smith does a wonderful job exploring Buddy's family menagerie: Royce, his alcoholic son; Lucy, his depressed teen daughter; and his weary mother, Adele Reedy, who tries to provide Lucy the much-needed nurturing Buddy would rather lavish on Kristin LaGarde, a wealthy young businesswoman. A Mardi Gras party celebrating Buddy's engagement to Kristin leads to the exposure of his crooked shenanigans—and of Talba's true identity. When Buddy turns up dead, Kristen hires Talba to find the murderer. This spicy gumbo of steamy mystery, saucy humor and piquant social commentary should appeal to discriminating crime fans. Agent, Vicky Bijur . (July 27)

Reviewed on: 05/23/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
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