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Motif for Murder: A Scrapbooking Mystery by Laura Childs
Review by Carter Jefferson
Berkley Hardcover Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0425212041
Date: 05 September, 2006 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

I may be the first male who ever picked up one of Laura Childs' scrapbooking mysteries, but I wanted to see what the other half reads. I'm glad I did.

Childs produces excellent characters, and does a fine job of showing us the post-Katrina New Orleans French Quarter. When Carmela sees her husband Shamus stuffed into a car trunk and sped away to parts unknown, Carmela Bertrand and her sexy sidekick Ava go into action. Before they can get in gear, though, Carmela discovers amiable Uncle Henry shot dead in his sumptuous library with a leather-bound book in his hand.

The bumbling detective assigned to the cases doesn't move fast enough for Carmela and Ava, so they set out to rescue Shamus, and find Uncle Henry's killer, without his help. Following leads out into the bayou country over rutted roads, they find themselves the pursued as well as the pursuers.

The plot's absurd, but even readers of carefully honed police procedurals may not care. We learn a lot about scrapbooking as Carmela struggles to wrestle her shop, Memory Mine, out of the chaos left by the hurricane, and get to join her and various others as they prove succulent New Orleans cuisine has survived the floods. Scrapbooking is definitely an art, and Carmela's creativity in that field plays an important part in her pursuit of the killers. When she makes an "altered book" out of the volume found in Henry's hand, her memorial to the dead man turns out to contain a crucial clue to his murder.

Several men play significant parts in this mystery. I was just a tiny bit surprised to find that only two of them are people you'd really want to know. It's pretty clear that one of those, antique dealer Jekyl Hardy, is gay, even though Childs doesn't say so, and the other, Uncle Henry, is dead from the start. The rest are either stupid or obnoxious, with the possible expection of Ava's new beau, rich businessman Ryder Bowman, who may or may not turn out to be the killer. Still, Childs doesn't spare the distaff side--her mother-in-law Glory, who inherits control of a huge venture-capital operation when Henry dies, is about as nasty as they come.

Two appendices are great bonuses. One gives some clever pointers on scrapbooking, and in the other we get the recipes for the fabulous Cajun dishes Carmela eats along the way. I don't do scrapbooks, but I'm going to try some of those recipes.

Fast moving, well written, and placed in a fascinating setting, this mystery is one that will sell like roast beef po-boys not only to scrapbookers, but to readers who like to see smart, feisty females show up cops, capitalists, and crooks down where the good times still roll.

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