In Towler’s debut novel, a small-town Louisiana university professor encounters “all kinds of weird” when she’s drawn into a bizarre investigation.
Forensic anthropologist and college professor Lula Logan has a curvy figure and unpolished nails “long enough to pick up a bone shard.” Lula’s ex-lover, Detective Devon Lemonde, needs her help finding the body that belongs to a severed finger delivered to police headquarters. Although Lula would rather concentrate on her research and classes than help Devon, the mystery draws her in. Another digit turns up at a local movie production company run by avid traveler Preston Pratt and his diminutive partner, Blaine Dworkin. It employs an unusual group of people, including Sherry, a beautiful drug distributor and one of Lula’s students; neck-tattooed pretty-boy Juanito; and teenage landscaper/wannabe-rapper Melvyn. Lula gives Melvyn a ride home from work and meets his single mother, Bebe Armstrong. That night, the women enjoy drink-enhanced girl talk that readers will find entirely genuine. The same goes for Lula’s yearning for Devon, who previously betrayed her by not revealing his marital status; although he’s still married, he still tries to woo Lula back. But at the town’s annual Hot Sauce Festival, she catches the eye of U.S. Rep. Ambrose Girabeaux, who’s pretty hot himself. As the investigation grows darker, major characters meet untimely ends, but the novel’s rich content offer readers much more than mere murder. The focus of Lula’s academic research, for example, is discovering scientific evidence of atrocities suffered by slaves. Other subplots touch on subjects as diverse as revising copyright legislation and planning for a natural-gas pipeline. Although it’s not front and center, the subject of race consistently ripples beneath the surface. For instance, the African-American Lula feels that the white officers working with her think of her only as “a black female cadaver-digger,” and one cop, convinced he’s not a racist, says that he’s “just not interested in anyone who isn’t white.”
A thought-provoking mystery with credible dialogue and convincing characters.