Fatal Cajun Festival

I have to own up to something up front: I grabbed this book on Netgalley thinking it was part of another series. I was a little hesitant to read it because I wasn’t entirely on board with the author’s last book, but I am actually really glad I did as I enjoyed this book so much more than the last one. So thank you Crooked Lane Books and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a review!

44282927Fatal Cajun Festival

Ellen Byron

Publish Date: September 2019
Read Date: September 2019
Format: electronic galley
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Page Count: 304 pages
Rating: 3.5/5 Moose

Synopsis

You’re just in time for Pelican, Louisiana’s Cajun Country Live! Festival! While not the headliner, you can see Pelican’s current hot bad: Gaynell and the Gator Girls! Yeah okay, and hometown star Tammy Barker is returning…to potentially cause some drama. And sing some, of course. And she seems to have a grudge against Gaynell. Which seems to culminate on the ultimate revenge when Gaynell is accused of murdering Tammy’s manager. Can amateur detective Maggie Croazat solve the case before her best friend goes away for murder?

Rants, Raves, and Reviews

Given all the heavy reading I’ve done lately, especially for Judging Book Covers, I was dying (ha!) for something lighter overall. And I just happened to have a cozy mystery in need of reviewing — perfect timing!

Overall, this book flowed better than the last in the series. There are still so many characters, but this time there is a map of who everyone is. And the band members had weird names like “The Sound,” so it was a little easier to keep track of who was who. And having a little bit of a background probably helped.

The overall story is fun, in a suspend your real life kind of way. I mean, if deaths actually happened at a festival they would shut down for awhile, right? (I honestly don’t know but am clinging on to a little bit of my beliefs in people.)

It has definitely been interesting reading cozy mysteries written in a post #metoo world. (Also in a post-Trump world — there is one soft reference to Trump that made me question if I was supposed to like a character or not?) The deaths of several cozy mysteries that have fallen into this category have definitely featured scummy dudes who represent the worst in Hollywood. Pony, Tammy’s manager and the novel’s murderee, fits that perfectly. I can’t always tell who is going to be murdered, but he was clearly the target here. He has a reputation of bedding his way through the music world. Gaynell “lucks” into a meeting with him thanks to Tammy, and he promptly tells her she’s not fuckable. (Edited in the book, because it is a cozy mystery that doesn’t have swear words. Which, I am all for, but don’t say things like “you word-that-rhymes-with-witch” in a yelling argument. It is always going to take me out of the moment.) He then later, on stage in front of several people, tells her that she knows what she can do to get into the business, causing her to snap.

Mostly, it is standard cozy mystery tropes, which I am fine with. But what elevated it some for me is the kind of subplot going on of is Tammy bullying Gaynell or is Maggie overreacting? I mean, it is clear that Tammy is pulling some high school mean girl tricks (enough to cause slight anxiety in my stomach, thank you childhood) but at first they’re so subtle that you can’t quite tell.

I will say my biggest complaint with cozy mysteries is that the climax of the book — the part where our amateur detective is kidnapped or in trouble in some way with the killer — is almost always super short and under developed. This book unfortunately suffers from that as well. I like the climax, but I wanted more. More lead up, more interaction, just more. It’s barely felt like two pages. And the reason for Tammy’s bullying could have been more for me. Not the exact reason (it’s fine) but the discussion of it could have been more? Still, I like that reveal and what happens after it. It made me laugh quite a bit.
Maggie’s grandmother was one of my favorite characters of the last book, and I’m a bit bummed she’s fairly sidelined in this book. She spends the whole book essentially cleaning out their house, doing a “death cleaning” (cleaning out things that she doesn’t want to leave to her son and granddaughter after she dies). That being said, I loved the scenes with her. She has a shocking revelation, and I just wanted more of this! But major kudos to the author for how the twist is revealed.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it isn’t the best cozy mystery I’ve read this year, but it’s definitely a good one. And as someone who seriously misses Cajun food (COME ON NYC, GET GOOD CAJUN FOOD), I am seriously excited to see the shrimp etouffe recipe in the back. And I am even more excited to back and read more of this series.

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