A Scrapbooking Mystery
By Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime Hardcover
336 pages – $25.95
Published: Oct. 7
While Memory Mine Scrapbook Shop owner Carmela Bertrand is brainstorming new Paper Moon class ideas, everyone is planning their Halloween parties in New Orleans. No sooner does she leave her shop in the French Quarter does she hear strange noises in the neighboring business, which is appropriately named “Oddities.” The store is known for its macabre merchandise and its owner is equally odd. Maybe intuition shouldn’t have prompted her to check out those muffled noises, but Carmela was curious. Upon closer examination, the owner, Marcus Joubert, literally falls on her after a serious of unintentional motions in the dark. He’s….dead, not stone cold, but definitely dead.
Carmela calls her boyfriend, Detective Edgar Babcock, to report the sad truth that she found Joubert and he’s no longer among the living. Babcock arrives on the scene, along with the local police, to begin what they believe is a murder investigation.
Shortly after explanations and standard procedure, totally uncaring that a man was murdered, the Countess Vanessa Saint-Marche introduces herself to Carmela and her employee, Gabby. They learn that the Countess is determined to open a high-end jewelry store where Oddities originally was. The former merchant hasn’t even been buried and she asks Carmela to design an invitation for her store’s grand opening. The reader begins to wonder if the murder was arranged to improve the quality of the businesses in the neighborhood. Then a new clue surfaces: one item in the Oddities inventory that is probably worth a million dollars, is missing, according to Mavis Sweet, Joubert’s employee, who arrived at the store after being called by Carmela. She noticed that Napoleon’s Death Mask is nowhere to be found. Throughout the investigation, this seems to be the main element of concern, possibly more so than Joubert’s death. Why? Because there are so many questions about how he acquired it? It if was an original or copy? And who took it from him?
I loved this book for many reasons: the characters were well drawn out and had hysterical personalities. The storyline marched on at a fast pace so it never had slow areas. That’s either because Childs is a talented writer with a knack for words or she has wonderful editors that work towards making her books the best they can be. Maybe both. I loved the setting she chose and how she made you feel as if you were walking down the street, eating the regional food, and attending all the Halloween events New Orleans has for its residents. She cleverly created suspicion so you really didn’t know which one of the possible suspects was actually the guilty party. Then she throws a twist at you and you won’t believe it.
Four and a half death masks out of five
Oct. 31, 2014