Feisty computer whiz/rap poet Talba Wallis, stage name Baroness Pontalba, makes a parallel move from assisting seedy shamus Gene Allred (82 Desire, 1998) to working slave wages for low-tech New Orleans p.i. Eddie Valentino. Sitting in on his interview with prospective client Aziza Scott because she’s “demographically desirable” (i.e., black), the Baroness learns that young teenager Cassandra has been debauched, and her mom wants to find out by whom. Cassandra won’t snitch, and neither will her best chums Shaneel and Pammie. But the name Toes pops up. Surfing the Internet for clues, the Baroness also turns up Eddie’s estranged son, and with her usual meddlesome brio puts him back in touch with his dad. Meanwhile, two more die, goons Bingo and Pork try some strong-arm stuff, one teenager disappears, a hit-and-run driver waylays Eddie, and the Baroness begins to suffer flashbacks to another death when she was only seven, though her mother and brother refuse to answer her questions. Beset with murders past and present, the Baroness has to call Skip Langdon, Smith’s other series sleuth, for backup. By the time it’s all over, Toes and his hotshot brother will be shooting wildly at anything that moves and anybody still breathing.
Any series that makes room for the Baroness’s momma Miz Clara, the endearingly grumpy Eddie, and his know-it-all lawyer daughter Angie can be excused for the slightly over-the-top performances (and wardrobe) of the Baroness.