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Everybody loved easygoing Hamson Brocato, producer of the successful New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but even so he ended up stabbed to death in his kitchen the night of his own JazzFest party. NOPD detective Skip Langdon, Smith's spunky heroine last seen in New Orleans Mourning, gets a ready-made suspect list from the victim's live-in lover, singing star Ti-Belle Thiebaud. Included are Ariel Bruge, Ham's assistant, apparently a woman scorned; his father George, enmeshed with family members in a bitter disagreement over the family's fast food ("Poor Boy's Po' Boys") chain; and Patty, the stepmother Ham was cool about. Skip notes the list's omissions: Ti-Belle herself (often heard arguing with Ham at the top of her powerful voice) and Melody, Ham's teenaged half-sister who vanished the same day Ham died. Skip doesn't miss much as she probes the victim's tangled relationships, remaining all the while a consistently convincing character herself, grumbling about her boss and anxious about her long-distance significant other. Smith's Big Easy setting is a lively blend of big city and gossipy small town. Author tour. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This sequel to The Axeman's Jazz (Thomas Dunne, 1991) also takes place in a recognizably atmospheric setting and calls upon a similar theme. On the eve of the New Orleans Jazz Fest, series heroine Detective Skip Langdon discovers the dead body of one of its staunchest supporters, the part-owner of a restaurant chain and the lover of a fast-rising black blues singer. To make matters worse, the victim's teenage half-sister, who may hold the key to the case, has disappeared. A super protagonist, well-defined characters, and musical highlights make this essential. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/93. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I really like Julie Smith's character Skip Langdon, homicide detective on the New Orleans Police Department, pretty, sexy, insecure, six-foot tall, who lived in her one-room studio rented from her gay landlord friend and fashion consultant. This book is rich in New Orleans, with a setting in Jazz Fest, po-boys from Mumfreys, and the musicians who swarm here. The beginning is great: a party at a new mansion in Old Metairie and the host fails to show up. Why? He's found on the kitchen floor, speared by a knife plunged to the hilt in his chest. The stove is still on and the roux is burning. The book takes us to the darker side of the city, the world of the runaways and the "Cov" where they can find refuge.
Langdon is a pro. She collects her evidence step-by-step, each piece a part of a story, one with characters who rise out of the steam of a dangerous New Orleans summer afternoon.
I have read other books by Julie Smith and they were great. This book, not so much. Don't judge her on the basis of this book alone. This one needed better editing; it was long and boring. I gave up about a quarter of the way through and read the ending.
This was a diverting read mainly for the colorful descriptions of The Big Easy and the central characters. The mystery was acceptable but the ending felt tacked on and was less than gratifying. Still, her central character, female police officer Skip Langdon is interesting and complex enough to want to ride shotgun with as she progresses through the story. The problem for anyone who likes to read about Southern Louisiana and the New Orleans area, is that James Lee Burke owns this territory and so far nobody else has measured up to his skill at describing it.
I think Julie Smith is a terrific writer and as I read one book of hers after another I am impressed by the growth as a writer that she demonstrates. It's fun to read her books and watch her get better and better. Her two main characters -- Skip Langdon and the city of New Orleans -- are equally real to me. Her depiction of the climate of New Orleans makes me really glad I don't live there but I love reading about it. And Skip, with her fine mind and profound insecurities, is someone I'd love to know. But the most wonderful aspect of this particular Skip Langdon adventure is the portrayal of the mind of a sixteen year old girl, incredibly sad, incredibly talented, incredibly real to me. I love how the girl thinks about race, music, death, and love. I believe in her talent and her anguish. I love Skip's landlord/best friend and can't wait to read the next book to find out what happens in their lives. In fact, as soon as I finish this review I'm going to buy the next one.
This is not the intelligent, smooth, compelling storytelling of Julie Smith. The blunt cookie cutter characters trudge through this disaster of a story line with oblique secret motivations that, frankly, I ceased to care about at around the halfway point. Many times I had to backtrack to try to determine the juvenile character's location in her agonized dashing around the city. What happened with her big singing debut? And WHY was she constantly fainting? The rock star and the Cajun story line was dropped in mid-drama, presumably to appear in another book. Skip Langdon was missing from much of the story, but when she did appear, she was such a weepy ineffective clod I didn't recognize her. This digital version was packed with wrong words and misspellings that could be attributed to faulty scanning, but which the REAL Julie Smith would have had corrected before publishing. I will still read the Rebecca Schwartz and Talba Wallis stories, but will give Skipper a long time out.
Just reread Jazz Funeral for the first time in..twenty years? Needless to say I didn't remember any of it. This time I'm not only older than Melody the teen suspect but also Skip Langdon, Smith's famous New Orleans cop detective who was my initiation into my love of mysteries and my particular love of female detectives. As a reread it was interesting to realize that Skip didn't actually solve the mystery, nor did I. Jazz Funeral gives you a lot of people who have a motive and a teenager whose melodrama is so teenage that when everyone says the key is the teenager I kept thinking to myself "oooh puh-lease!"
If you want a glimpse of pre-Katrina New Orleans when it was only about the music and violence and no one had cell phones, pick up Jazz Funeral. Strangely so much is still true. You can still buy a gun on the West Bank, be an underage stripper in the quarter, the same people still attend Country Day, and New Orleans is just as corrupt if not more. So glad I got to read it again!