Murder in the Garden District by Greg Herren (Alyson Books)

Buy it Now at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

Scandal-prone dynasties are a tradition in Louisiana politics, and Greg Herren makes the most of that rich, if disturbing, history in his newest Chanse MacLeod mystery. In this fifth installment, Chanse is hired by wealthy matriarch, Cordelia Spencer Sheehan to deflect suspicion from herself for the murder of her politician son. Only her power and position in New Orleans society is keeping her out of jail as Herren underscores the inequality for which Southern justice is historically known. Chanse is reluctant to step into this mess, especially considering how infuriatingly overbearing Cordelia is, but circumstances force him to try to find theories that support Cordelia’s innocence, even while all the evidence points to her.

Chanse and his capable assistant, Abby, work quickly, and they soon unearth a number of Sheehan family secrets and a clearer picture of the victim—a fair-minded, liberal politician who was apparently an abusive, inhumane drunk in his torrid private life. While the “juicy” details of the scandals will keep readers engrossed, this is also an intricately-structured mystery with fully developed characters. Unlike many mysteries, the detectives have very little handed to them, so they actually have to do the work.

Readers familiar with Herren know that the Chance MacLeod series are his “dark mysteries” compared to his lighter Scotty Bradley mysteries such as Bourbon Street Blues. (This actually makes perfect sense for a setting such as New Orleans as the city has a reputation for possessing a “parade and party” identity as well as one of crime and tragedy.) The atmosphere in Murder in the Garden District is tense and foreboding to begin with, but Herren raises the stakes even higher with a major hurricane bearing down on the city and an unknown gunman stalking Chanse. Mystery readers and fans of political thrillers will enjoy this thoroughly.

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas

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