Forge, July 2004, 24.95, 304 pp.
By day, she is Talba Wallis, ace private detective and junior partner in the E.V. Anthony Investigations Agency; by night, she is the Baroness de Pontalba. Dining Hurricane Carol, Talba receives a call from her hysterical half-sister Janessa, whom she met only once. Janessa wants Talba to meet her at her employer's house. When she arrives there, Talba sees a dead woman in the swimming pool with a head wound and Janessa holding the gun.
Janessa swears she did not kill Allyson Browser, the “Gatsby Girl” who loved to throw parties and a socialite with the literary greats of New Orleans. Earlier in the evening Janessa witnessed a fight between Allyson and her son Austin over money. Austin has disappeared and so has Rashid, Allyson's other employee who Janessa has a crush on. The police believe Janessa is the best suspect, forcing Talba to mobilize her troops to clear her sister's name and find out who the real killer is before her sibling is arrested.
Julie Smith is brilliant at creating characters that are easy to identify with so that readers become absorbed in the storyline, following the antics of the quirky cast. Like many of Ms. Smith's victims, Allyson is not a nice person so there are many suspects who had a motive to kill her. Guessing who it is makes for fun and exciting reading.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner