MORTAL SINS by Penn Williamson


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Hot-blooded sex, hoodoo, and homicide in the Queen City (during the Roaring Twenties) are the savory ingredients of this turbulent potboiler concocted by The Romance Writer Otherwise Known as Penelope Williamson.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil it isn't, despite a bubbling gumbo of partial echoes and incidental resemblances. It all begins when prominent New Orleans criminal lawyer Charles St. Claire is found hacked to death in a converted `slave shack` not far from his luxurious home. All evidence points to the grieving widow, gorgeous movie vixen Remy Lelourie—who's the former lover of weary veteran police detective Daman Rourke, a widower currently involved with the widow of their mutual childhood friend, a slain cop. You think that's complicated? Another corpse turns up nearby; circumstantial evidence suggesting a mob hit puts `Day` Rourke in the face of another old comrade, Chicago (and Al Capone)–connected bootlegger Casey Maguire. Day's investigation predictably takes him through the city's many colorful social and criminal levels, and rapidly branches out to include Remy's resentful sister Belle (deeply implicated in a Lelourie family secret pertaining to both Charles St. Claire and his late brother Julius); `high-yeller` beauty Lucille Durand, whose husband LeRoy, a onetime prizefighter, is doing time for a murder he probably didn't commit; St. Claire's suave (and evasive) law partner Jean Louis Armande; reformed `tantan macoute` and specialist in `the black arts` Mamma Rae; and prudent police commissioner (and Day's former father-in-law) Weldon Carrigan. In New Awlins, you see, everybody's related to everybody else—if not by blood, then as lovers or confederates: a fact whose several interlocking proofs dovetail neatly together for this enjoyably strident novel's deft resolution.

Except for a superfluity of sentences like `He took her there on the floor, with swift, rough lust,` this is quality hokum, aided immeasurably by outrageously melodramatic characters and amusingly hard-bitten dialogue. Don't miss the miniseries.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-446-52154-X
Page count: 432pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2000