Thursday, September 6, 2012

Murder In The Garden District by Greg Herren

Reviewer: Jon Michaelsen
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 256

Reading one of Greg Herren’s Chanse MacLeod mysteries is akin to curling up in bed with knees tucked beneath the covers and sipping a cup of hot cocoa. In order words – for me at least – reading a book in this this series is like a homecoming, comfortable, homely…and, incredibly addictive. Herren’s #5 entry in the series of six mysteries thus far has become one of my favorites. I read this one out of sequence since I had to wait until Murder In The Garden District was released in ebook format. Mr. Herren explained to me last year that he was waiting for the rights to revert back to him to get the title re-released as an ebook. I read Murder in the Irish Channel December last year and the first in the series, Murder In The Rue Dauphine last March (again waiting for the novel to be released via ebook).

Reading the Chanse MacLeod mysteries out of order is not a problem; each novel stands on its own, however, reading them sequentially, the reader gets a real good feel of the personal challenges each of the main characters, Chanse MacLeod and Venus Casanova, face throughout their trials and tribulations – indeed growth – from excitement, to setbacks, to heartache and of course, the wrath of mother nature.

In Murder In The Garden District, we learn right away former cop, private eye Chanse MacLeod is hired to investigate the murder of a leading candidate in an upcoming senatorial race. The man was a scion of Louisiana’s political world, loathed by many, with a very young wife, long held secrets and a grand-dame matriarch mother determined to keep the family name untarnished at any cost, regardless of breaking any laws. Sound familiar?

The premise may seem familiar to many a mystery lover, but Murder In The Garden District is anything but a mirror image of those novels which fail to provide the right balance of deft mystery with the realistic, personal side of the protagonist. Herren succeeds in offering us a tightly drawn mystery, with a thrilling backstory driving the angst and excitement of the last twenty odd pages or so. My favorite portion of the story however centers on yet another monster hurricane unleashed by mother nature and headed straight for New Orleans not a year or two after the devastating killer, Katrina. Here is where Herren reveals the true art of writing, the inherit gift of personal insight, the chilling anguish and fear brought about by yet another storm.

New Orleans becomes a character all of its own in this fifth installment of the private eye, Chanse MacLeod series, making Murder In The Garden District more than worth the read. Considering the political climate today with highly contested local, regional and national elections across the country, Garden is timely as Herren delves into the political arena of conspiracy, money and power in New Orleans., all framed within a murder under interesting circumstances in which MacLeod must steer clear of implicating a member of the family as killer and pin the murder on someone else.

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