His 1894 lecture tour takes Sam Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, down the Mississippi to New Orleans, to his friend and fellow- author George Washington Cable, and to a mystery Cable's got a stake in--the arrest of Leonard Galloway, an African-American cook Cable's known forever, for the murder of mayoral aspirant John David Robinson. The police, of course, don't think it's much of a mystery; now that they've locked up Galloway, they've stopped looking for anybody else. But the cook couldn't have poisoned Robinson on such flimsy provocation as the police contend, Cable insists; it's up to Clemens, fresh from his riverboat detective debut (Death on the Mississippi, 1995), to clear him by fingering the real killer. And Clemens plunges into his role with surprising relish, identifying half a dozen likely suspects in Robinson's family circle, worming his way inside the widow's house of mourning, following up leads that take him to voodoo priestess Eulalie Echo and shady saloonkeeper Tom Anderson, and lecturing his amanuensis Wentworth Cabot on evidence and tactics with all the aplomb of Perry Mason. But the case takes an abrupt detour when Cabot's boundless naivetÇ lands him in a duel to the death that ends with his arrest for murder, and Clemens has to use all his persuasive wiles in a courtroom scene that still leaves the killer free till the lively voodoo- tinctured climax. Packed with casual racists, unregenerate Civil War veterans, superstitious rationalists, and poseurs of every stripe--exactly the sort of colorful cast that brings its satiric hero's famous talent for unmasking pretension into brilliant relief.