Wish you were in Louisiana for Mardi Gras? Wish again.
Major flooding has dumped piles of trash and an unidentified body in St. Pierre Parish. Maggie Crozat’s boyfriend, Bo Durand, is a detective for the Pelican Police Department, but although Maggie’s nose for murder (Body on the Bayou, 2016, etc.) makes her curious about the anonymous corpse, she’s so busy that she pushes it to the back of her mind until Bo tells her the death was no accident. Replacing her Gran, who feels poorly, Maggie is roped into judging the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen Pageant, a chore that quickly entangles her in another murder. The other judges are Constance Damboise and her husband, Gerard, the stuffy, snobbish president of the historical society; convenience store owner Robbie Metz; and star beauty products sales rep Maureen “Mo” Heedles, a vivacious woman with an outsize personality. Constance and Gerard are already squabbling over an exhibit featuring the orphan trains that carried children from the North in search of a better life in Louisiana. While the pageant mothers do their best to influence the judges, Gerard is certain that Belle Tremblay will win because she’s an attractive girl from one of the area’s finest families. Maggie is literally nudged into the case when Gerard runs into the back of her car and mutters, “Lies. Secrets,” before he keels over dead. Then she’s asked to restore a picture at the plantation where she works part time, and beneath the peeling painting she finds another one that references a possible treasure site. On top of everything else, Maggie must prepare for Mardi Gras, deal with her father’s obsession with the perfect gumbo, and figure out why Bo’s been so distant lately.
Byron embeds her tricky mystery in an amusing and informative tale of Cajun life and the logistical travails of Mardi Gras.