Simon & Schuster, Aug 2004, 24.00, 292 pp.
In 1956 in Richelieu, Louisiana the local Cajuns love eating gumbo and gossiping about sexual scandals, political corruption and kickbacks. In fact most residents are proud of those who get away with cheating, which has made State Senator Papoot Gaspard a graft legend. Everyone in town knows that if it ain't broke leave it alone; graft is a way of life and not considered broken so keep the chats away from outsiders or become alligator bait.
Former resident New Orleans reporter Ruth Ann Daigle comes home to care for her dying father, the owner of the Richelieu newspaper. Investigating is in her genes and so she breaks the golden rule of minding ones business and makes inquiries into the death of tenant farmer Ti Boy, who killed himself while cleaning his gun. Although Sheriff Bobby Boudreaux, who is Papoot's son-in-law, knows how he got the job and doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him, he considers joining Ruth Ann on her investigation partially because he finds her beautiful and intelligent while his spouse is an obese queen.
This historical mystery provides a powerful look at 1950s Bayou country with a host of local eccentric characters who turn from benign to deadly as the investigation begins to close in on what happened, something the leaders want buried. The story line is at its strongest as a period piece than as a crime thriller because the story loses some momentum with a second suicide.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner