When the coveted cookbook containing five generations of Belvedere family recipes, including the restaurateurs’ heralded Oysters Belvedere, comes up for auction, the Gourmet Detective (Eat, Drink, and Be Buried, 2001, etc.) is invited to the Big Easy to authenticate it by a lawyer representing a client he declines to name. There are two immediate problems: The book has disappeared, and five gorgeous women waylay the G.D. and explain that they are “Witches”—that is, Women in the Catering, Hotel, and Eating Services—and they want the G.D. to get that book for them, too. The trail leads to Michael Gambrinus, Bookseller, where someone sits dead in the owner’s chair. After a refreshing stop for a beignet and chicory-laced coffee, the G.D. is on the trail again, pausing only for a hefty portion of catfish fillets, then another stop for gumbo sopped up with pain perdu and yet another for high-caloric flummery for dessert. Between bites, the G.D. visits a book forger, learns Cajun and Creole dining idiosyncrasies, confers with a New Orleans cop, rides the St. Charles streetcar line from end to end, and discovers which Witch is two-timing the others, for a wrap-up that demands a celebratory Ramos gin fizz.
Less wacky than most Gourmet Detective outings, but readers will find the menu descriptions mouthwatering and crave a sample of shrimp remoulade.