Another Julie Smith book. This series features a Black female P.I. working in New Orleans. She works for a white guy named Eddie, brusque but lovable. [Side note: when we want to describe a person of color, why do we capitalize the B in Black, but not the W in white? Or the F in female? Issues like this keep me up at night.]
Talba is a really likable gal, as is her boss, Eddie. This book is all about race.
Talba goes to a white female masseuse about her own age, and they end up being sort of friends, and then, wouldn’t you know it, the masseuse commits suicide. The 30-something masseuse was into all that New Age stuff, healing, spirituality, that kind of thing. She had a boyfriend whom she was certain was cheating on her, so she hired Talba to do a little surveillance and see what’s up. Well, of course he was cheating. The friend then commits suicide. But gee, suicide seemed really out of character. Talba is then contacted by the boyfriend who hires her to find out what was really going on, because he thinks the girlfriend was murdered.
Talba goes to the funeral, and it turns out the gal was from a wealthy and prominent family in a nearby town, and ….. get this….. she was scalped one night while she was sleeping when she was a teenager. A young man, her former boyfriend, despite the obviously trumped up evidence and charges, is convicted and sent to prison. But the family all hated the girl, and she hated them, and had nothing to do with them. Whaaa?
Nobody in the town will talk to Talba, none of the white folks, that is. And the local gendarmes pick up Talba for surveiling without contacting them first, (kinda like Sitting in Car While Black), toss her in jail, and it takes a while for Eddie to get there and get her released. What a mess.
But Talba gets the idea that the Black folks in town would talk to her. She goes to the library and looks at the high school yearbook and finds only 5 Black students in the year of the masseuse. She contacts them, finds a twisty thread among them, and then the bodies start appearing.
The convicted young man, fresh out of prison, dies in an accident. Then his father, unwell, sure, ups and dies. When Talba tries to contact one of the high school students, she is told by his parents that he is dead.
The whole town is lying and covering up something, and the Black guy running for governor seems to be in the center of it.
Great mystery, great characters, and a great treatment of the race issue.