Murder in turn-of-the-century New Orleans: sex, secrets and an array of voluptuous temptresses.
Wealthy John Benedict is found murdered on Storyville’s seamy Rampart Street, known for its saloons and whorehouses. Wanting a quick and quiet resolution, Tom Anderson, king of the red-light district, hires brooding Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr, recently returned to the city after solving the murders of several musicians and breaking up with his mistress Justine (Jass, 2005). Benedict’s widow, his grown daughter Anne Marie and his crusty lawyer Delouche are outraged when Valentin asks questions about Benedict’s private life. But Anne Marie’s attraction to the forbidden Valentin works to the detective’s advantage. Justine, meanwhile, languishes unhappily as a kept woman. Inevitably, the star-crossed lovers meet again when a second victim, Charles Kane, is abducted in clear sight of his friend George Reynolds, who happens to be Justine’s dull lover. Valentin’s bluntness and arrogance continue to rile Delouche, Anderson and racist Lieutenant Picot, but they cooperate as the bodies pile up. Anne Marie’s shrewd maid Betsy also figures prominently in the puzzle, whose solution smacks more of politics than lust.
St. Cyr’s third case is another lukewarm mystery, but Fulmer’s evocative portrait of New Orleans, as seductive and unique a century ago as yesterday, has added poignancy in light of recent events.