Author Laura Childs turns what could be traditional "cozies" into "thrillzies" by setting her Scrapbook Mysteries series in New Orleans. In Childs' newest release, Fiber & Brimstone, amateur sleuth Carmela Bertrand follows a killer into the haunted Halloween parties of the Big Easy and beyond. Read on to learn how the author captures the true spirit of the city from the Rue Bourbon to the Mississippi River.
The first time I set foot in New Orleans, I knew this was a city rife with spirits and that I had to make it a setting for my new Scrapbook Mystery series. After all, here was a city that was eccentric, fanciful, and just naturally possessed of a dark side. There’s the captivating French Quarter with its grand architecture and bad behavior, aboveground cemeteries that are a constant eerie presence, and wild Mardi Gras parades with leering bulbous heads. New Orleans positively leads the country when it comes to sheer atmosphere. Where else do you find deteriorating mansions, narrow cobblestone streets with flickering gaslights, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and fog-shrouded bayous that stretch for miles?
And then there’s the buzzing current of inner circle society. As luck would have it, my New Orleans friends had entrées into float dens, private Garden District parties, and grand balls given by the Rex and Comus krewes. This was heady stuff to a “Yankee,” and gave me even more impetus to capture the ethereal essence of New Orleans and its inhabitants and transfer it to the page.
Now, with each Scrapbook Mystery I write, I strive to convey this sense of place. Of course, spooky only goes so far! As a counterpoint, my main character, Carmela Bertrand, is an optimistic, savvy entrepreneur who’s been through Hurricane Katrina and lived to tell about it. Although her scrapbook shop, Memory Mine, is still recovering, Carmela is an intelligent amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on “coincidences” or inept police work to solve crimes.
In my 8th Scrapbook Mystery, Fiber & Brimstone, Carmela and her friend Ava create giant puppets for the French Quarter’s Monsters and Mayhem parade. But as blood-curdling screams pierce the night, they discover that the captain of the float den has been stabbed by the horns of a giant Minotaur head! Police quickly cast blame on Carmela’s float-building friend, Jekyl, even though she’s convinced of his innocence and vows to find the real killer. But this is Halloween in New Orleans, an ethereal bewitched city where ghostly intruders are at work. Carmela finds herself pursued by a swamp monster, discovers a second gruesome murder at the Ballet Dracula, meets the mysterious Mr. Bones, and ends up a prisoner in a parade of hearses!
Fiber & Brimstone isn’t exactly your traditional cozy – in fact, it’s more of a thrillzy, but without the sex or really tough language. There's also a shameless amount of New Orleans recipes included, such as voodoo chicken wings, pralines, Cajun shrimp bake, and Jezebel sauce.
But just when you’ve settled back and assumed everything is safely back to normal in New Orleans, footsteps sound behind you and the lonely toot of a tugboat whistle floats in from the Mississippi.
Happy, spooky reading!
- Laura Childs
You can pick up your copy of Childs' Fiber & Brimstone in bookstores now!