A man who returns to his hometown following his father’s untimely death finds passion and peril in this novel.
After receiving the blunt news “Father found dead,” actor Jeff Chaussier heads home—18 hours on a bus for the fearful flyer—to see family and friends and to investigate whether anyone drove his fireman dad to an early grave. Chaussier first visits his best friend, chain-smoking Don, who runs a small theater in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Sparks fly between Chaussier and the theater’s stage manager, Bryna Boudreaux, a feisty, Garbo-featured, blond knockout in a tummy-baring pink T-shirt. Bryna has secrets, and one of them smokes stogies and drives around in a big, black car. Chaussier’s dad also had secrets; after his best friend, Bubber Watkins, “died ugly” in a suspicious fire, he declared that there was “something” he “was going to do something about.” Someone wants to do something about Chaussier too, as he is jumped by two thugs in the French Quarter. Could the attack be linked to the bogus autopsy report on file for his father? In this lively series opener, some pieces of Sanchez’s (A-Roving No More, 2019, etc.) puzzle don’t fit—why, for example, does Chaussier initially suspect his father’s death wasn’t accidental, as a police report claimed? Why didn’t Chaussier go to his dad’s funeral? And why was news of his father’s death sent in a telegram rather than relayed in a phone call? Dated language creeps in; for example, Chaussier says, “I needed to husband my wardrobe.” In addition, deficient editing results in numerous sentences being repeated word for word several pages apart. Hearing Chaussier routinely explain “I’m an actor” grows tiresome but descriptions of the Crescent City seem almost poetic (“New Orleans has no star. She is an ensemble piece”). The author is at his best when depicting the food, the smells, and the buildings and docks of the French Quarter (some readers may even target the Big Easy as their next travel destination).
Despite some flaws, this engaging thriller should appeal to theater folks and New Orleans fans.