Moving away from his Colorado police procedural series (Pariah, 1999, etc.), Zigal offers a slow-moving, literate thriller examining the roots of racism in New Orleans.
For nearly 150 years, the Blanchard family has roasted New Orleans’ best cup of coffee. Though he’s bored with the family business, fortysomething company head Paul Blanchard is comfortably wealthy and well-known in the city’s highest social and power circles, when the repugnant, blatantly racist state Congressman Mike Morvant, Blanchard’s former Tulane University “frat buddy,” demands that Blanchard finance his gubernatorial run and talk Morvant up among the city’s elite. If he doesn’t, Morvant will reveal how he helped Blanchard cover up a terribly embarrassing situation from Blanchard’s wild and crazy years. Blanchard, a liberal Catholic married to a Jewish woman, is closer to his black housekeeper (and her son, currently serving a 30-year-sentence for murder) than he is to the members of his own dysfunctional family. He despises Morvant, though he’s intrigued when Morvant also demands that Blanchard secure the support of the White League, a secret society of upper-crust racists whose origins predate the Ku Klux Klan. Blanchard’s great-grandfather was a society member, way back during Reconstruction, and though it was thought to have died out, Blanchard’s gay, older brother has evidence that their late father was aware of it. Thus begins a rather windy, extravagantly detailed look at the Blanchard family’s problematic past, as well as the seamy origins of the city’s high society and, predictably, the convoluted ties that bind blacks, whites, Christians, Jews, Creoles, Cajuns in a simmering stew that differs from James Lee Burke’s gumbo in that it is told from the top down—as Blanchard, a child of privilege burdened by guilt, an unraveling marriage, and a daughter about to enter her own wild and crazy years, reexamines his roots and makes some risky decisions.
A contrived, deliciously complicated study of racism and what must be done to end it.