Friday, February 26, 2010

Review of the Day: New Orleans Mourning

Julie Smith won the 1991 Edgar Award for New Orleans Mourning, the first in what became her Skip Langdon series. A former debutante and police rookie, Langdon is a misfit in both high society New Orleans and the blue collar police force. Her oddball status means she must find her own way when given a special assignment to work on the murder of a prominent civic leader.

Langdon is an appealing heroine because she is imperfect. She is six feet tall and hefty, a horrible dresser, and remarkably headstrong for someone who is making it up as she goes along. Smith uses Langdon to present a take on pre-Katrina New Orleans life that is perceptive, irreverent, and for mystery fans, a refreshing change from the always dark and creepy Louisiana of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series.

Sometimes the conflicts in the story – between Langdon and her homicide detective co-workers or the amateur filmmaker who she cannot decide wants to love her or use her for a great story – seem forced. But Smith makes up for these flaws with a complicated story that twists several times before all the loose ends get satisfactorily tied up.

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