The other day, a friend referred to her reading, and said sometimes nothing is as satisfying as "death and mayhem". She's right. And, when that death and mayhem happens in a debut mystery, a mystery in which I don't guess the killer, there isn't anything more satisfying. Ellen Byron's debut mystery, Plantation Shudders, is an atmospheric, delightful mystery.
After her business arrangement with her boyfriend fell apart in New York, Maggie Crozat returned home to Louisiana. Now she works as a tour guide at Doucet Plantation, once owned by her mother's family, and helps out at the plantation her father's family made into a bed-and-breakfast, Crozat Plantation. Since the family is still playing financial catch-up after Hurricane Katrina, Maggie suggested they offer a special deal for the local end of summer celebration, Fet Let. They're completely booked, although it's a strange collection of guests. Unfortunately, the celebration turns bad when two guests die within minutes of each other. Yes, the couple was elderly, but only one of them died a natural death.
He may have started an investigation, but the local police chief, Rufus Durand, always had a grudge against the Crozats. So, he's pleased when Maggie's Gran' appears to be a suspect. And, clues do point to someone in the Crozat household. Fortunately, Rufus' new detective, his cousin, Bo, has more impartial methods of investigation. But, Maggie's determined she'll find the real killer if the Durands can't handle it.
Plantation Shudders is an atmospheric, traditional mystery with a strong sense of place. Bayous, alligators, Cajun food, Zydeco music, and plantations all spell Louisiana. Byron introduces a strong set of characters, beginning with Maggie, who can be a little snarky at times, and her wonderful Gran'. It's Gran' Maggie turns to for advice when she needs "Someone who was comfortable occasionally making a dodgy moral choice." The guests at the bed-and-breakfast are just cast members. It's Maggie's extended family and friends, along with Bo and his son who are the true stars of this mystery. Byron, with her well-developed characters and settings, along with her intriguing mystery, devises a successful, enjoyable debut.
It will definitely be a treat to return to Crozat Plantation and the next Cajun Country mystery. The Crozat family will definitely welcome readers back with Southern hospitality.
Ellen Byron's website is www.ellenbyron.com
Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron. Crooked Lane Books. 2015. ISBN 9781629532509 (hardcover) 288p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.