First Line: A dazzling night filled with gigantic floats, silver beads, dizzying lights, fire-twirling flambeaus, and a crowd that was fueled by too much Dixie Beer and Southern Comfort.
It is Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, one of the busiest times of year for Carmela Bertrand and her scrapbooking shop, Memory Mine. Since business still hasn't completely recovered from Hurricane Katrina, Carmela reluctantly agrees to do a puff piece on live television with her least favorite reporter, KBEZ-TV's Kimber Breeze. Instead Carmela finds Kimber's body hanging off the balcony of the Hotel Tremain.
Carmela is quite content to let the police do their job without her assistance, but when she starts finding postcards signed by the dead woman left in her shop, she and her best friend Ava decide that local law enforcement needs a helping hand.
Postcards from the Dead is a fast, enjoyable read that has two mysteries cleverly masquerading as one. (Quite fitting for Mardi Gras, isn't it?) Author Laura Childs gently led me astray on that point, so while I did deduce the identity of one killer, the second criminal was a surprise.
The strengths of this book are to be found in its two main characters, Carmela and Ava-- both strong, smart, successful and quirky women who love their work and enjoy their lives-- and in the setting itself. I loved walking the streets of the French Quarter, visiting the Garden District, and enjoying the Mardi Gras celebrations. I even learned that chicken wire plays an important part in shopkeepers' lives during this colorful, rowdy event. (Who says you can't learn anything by reading mysteries?)
Sometimes the "themes" of cozy mystery series, be they about cooking, book shops, knitting, antiques, or-- in this case-- scrapbooking, seem incidental to the books; almost as if they're just hooks to draw us in. Not so in Postcards from the Dead. As Carmela worked in her shop and taught classes to her patrons, I found the information about scrapbooking and ephemera fascinating. It's a very good thing that I'd taken care of all my errands outside the house before I plunked myself down to read, or I would have been searching out the nearest version of Memory Mine to rifle through all the goodies and bring bags of it home. Childs includes scrapbooking tips as well as recipes in the back of the book for any readers who may be interested, and I have to admit that I'm still feeling the urge to start up a new obsession.
If you're in the mood for a light, enjoyable read with thrills and laughs, Postcards from the Dead would be a perfect choice to curl up with. Worried that you've never read any of the books in this series and this is number ten? Don't be. You can read this without feeling that you're missing boatloads of information... but you may find yourself seeking out the other books in the series!