Friday, December 12, 2014

This is the kind of story that keeps you turning pages!
There are so many things to love about HOUSE OF BLUES, the fifth entry in the Edgar Award-winning Skip Langdon Series. It’s unputdownable! Magnificently-constructed, the atmosphere of New Orleans is set in all its steamy contradiction. Half alive, half dead, the city is as complex as a Louisiana gumbo simmering on the stove and just as tasty. The characters are steeped in complexity and quirkiness, their depth all neatly conveyed by Ms. Smith’s ability to turn a phrase. 
The murder of a grumpy old man, who is, in fact, a bully, gets this novel off to an exciting start. After all, his wife, Sugar Hebert, only goes to run an errand and boom! She comes back to find her husband dead, and the rest of her family gone … as in disappeared … vanished. Wha’ happened? Are they dead as well or have they seeped into the woodwork like all the other secrets she’s been hiding? But it’s not just her, I mean, EVERYONE in this story has them! They make for very dirty, dirty, dirty consciences (did I mention “guilty” ones also?), but that doesn’t deter Skip Langdon from pursuing the leads and tracking down who did what to whom. She’s going to find those missing persons if it’s the last thing she does, and it just might be.
You meet so many diverse individuals on this journey that it’s difficult to fit them all in. And each is so exquisitely crafted that it brings a tear to the eye of a mystery lover like myself. Oh, and the choice of words! Somebody has been working in their vocabulary garden and pruned the orchids until a purity of thought was achieved. Some of my favorite passages? The recipe for successful writing: “Sit staring at paper until drops of blood form on forehead.” Then there’s an explanation of what green, blue and gold people are and, of course, a story on the planet where spaghetti grows. These are just absolutely perfect examples of how you amplify a character and turn them into being downright fascinating. I couldn’t get enough.
If you’re a lover of mysteries, or the written word, do yourself a favor and pick up this bad boy. In fact, I’ll relate a story to properly describe the experience of reading this novel. I used to work second shift in lower Manhattan. Consequently, I always took my break around 10:00 PM. I would go outside and eat my snack on a bench by the water. The evening would be perfectly still with the moon high up in the sky and the river tranquil. Every night around this time, a singles cruise ship that featured jazz would sail its way into view and approach. A sleek, white boat, its open decks allowed it to be seen … and heard. I’d hear the rich, sexy notes of a saxophone and the utterly cool, cool music and the heartbeat of that percussion. The gentle sound of laughter and conversation from the crowd spilling out onto the decks would fill in the syncopation as would passions erupting from those falling in love. That’s what HOUSE OF BLUES is … it’s a mystery found deep in the night when you’re being swept out to sea. 

I'm giving it five stars. 


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