New Orleans Mourning

Julie Smith, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-03892-2
Though her plot careens with as many twists and turns as a car chase through the French Quarter, it is Smith's rotating focus on the complex viewpoints of her fully formed characters that gives her sixth novel its psychological and emotional depth. On Mardi Gras, civic leader and socialite Chauncey St. Amant is about to be crowned Rex, King of Carnival, when someone costumed as Dolly Parton shoots him dead from his best friend's balcony overlooking the parade. Is the killer aimless, promiscuous daughter Marcelle? Homosexual, mistreated son Henry? Helpless, alcoholic wife Bitty? Female rookie cop Skip Langdon uncovers a cast of intriguing characters, all as much Chauncey's victims as they are suspects in his murder, most of them inhabiting a ``poison garden of corruption'' and substance abuse where it's not just on Mardi Gras that everyone wears a mask. Praised for the local color she delivered in Huckleberry Fiend and Tourist Trap (set in San Francisco), Smith has researched the Big Easy exhaustively. While she does not paint its hues or diffuse its smells as vividly as she dissects its social strata, review getting wordy, tho well written/mc her rich, tightly structured narrative more than compensates. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
Genre: Fiction
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