Talba Wallis flaunts herself in garish turbans, African sarongs, and glittery makeup when she’s reciting her own poetry on New Orleans stages as Baroness Pontalba, but garbs herself sedately in navy skirts and demure white blouses when she’s working as Eddie Valentio’s newly licensed op. Now she digs out her inconspicuous duds and her camera to find out if her friend Babalu Maya’s fiancé Jason is cheating on her. He is, and the despondent Babalu is soon found with a needle in her arm, dead from a heroin overdose. The cops call it suicide, but the chastened Jason wants Talba to look into her death. Babalu, it turns out, had another identity as Clayton Robineau, a country-club socialite with racist relatives who loathed her, an abusive ex-husband, a history of addiction, and a past that included Donny Troxell, a spurned boyfriend, who did time for scalping her with a machete, then got killed by a mugger within a week of Babalu’s demise. Talba’s stonewalled by Clayton’s family, but gubernatorial candidate Buddy Calhoun and his minions keep popping up, and the relatives are obviously hiding a deep, dark secret. Eddie’s attempt to help out lands him in a car trunk, with Talba and the cops in hot pursuit. The last curtain finds a political career ending, the cover-up of an interracial romance exposed, and Talba reading her verse at Babalu’s memorial service.
The irascible Eddie gets all the best lines and many of the smartest ideas, while Talba (Louisiana Hotshot, 2001) continues dredging up tidbits about her murdered father’s second family and New Orleans simmers in racial disharmony.