Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery
by Ellen Byron
Cover Artist: Stephen Gardner
Review by Gayle Surrette
Crooked Lane Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781629532509
Date: 11 August 2015 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Maggie Crozat has returned to live at home with her parents and grandmother at Crozat Plantation -- family home now turned B&B in Louisiana. Coming back after living in New York City and owning and running an art gallery with her boyfriend wasn't in her plans, but when said boyfriend married someone else and took over the business, she didn't have much choice. So, she's back and angry but determined to make the best of it, using her skills to aid her parents and working as a tour guide at Doucet Plantation.
The economy hasn't recovered and things are difficult, so expecting guests for a fully booked weekend will make for a lot of work but also help the family's bottom line. The object is to keep the plantation in the family, and maybe bring it back to its glory days.
Of course, this is where things go horribly wrong when on the first night, there's a storm, the power goes out, and when it comes back on one of the guests is dying and his wife immediately dies after him. Two deaths in one weekend is a bit much. Add in that we learn there's a blood feud between the Crozats and the Durands -- the family of the Chief of Police. The Crozats aren't that involved in the feud, but Chief Rufus Durand takes it very seriously and personally, and this is his chance to see to some payback.
Maggie decides that the only way to get the police off their backs is to hope the new investigator will be fair and impartial. If he's not, she'll have to solve the case herself.
Ellen Byron's Plantation Shudders is an interesting debut novel, with a great location and lots of history and culture to add texture to the setting. The characters are well-developed, but not as fleshed out as I'd like, but after all this is the first time readers have met these people. I'm sure, based on this story, that they'll gather depth as the series goes on. The plot itself is convoluted and twisty, with both straight up following the clues, and a bit of witchy Louisiana voodoo to added to the mix.
A lot of potential for future stories and a heck of a good start with Plantation Shudders.