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by Julie Smith
Forge Books, May 2001
ISBN: 0765300583

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Talba Wallis, is New Orleans poet known as the Baroness de Pontalba, Xavier graduate, computer whiz, and private investigator, who first appeared as a character in 82 DESIRE. Talba answers an ad for a young nerd or nerdette Harvard graduate with investigative experience. She digs through the internet for a couple of hours and discovers who is behind the ad, so the next morning, she can amaze the owner of E. V. Anthony Investigations, Eddie Valentino with her knowledge of his affairs and finances.

Eddie can't decide whether or not to hire this bright, brash, young, black woman. His daughter, Angela, a lawyer, has heard of the Baroness, who has had a book of poetry published, and inveigles her father to go to a club that night and listen. Eddie, his wife Audrey, and Angela, go to the club and are stunned by her poetry and her personality.

The next day, Eddie hires Talba. He can't understand what he, a 60 something ex New Orleans cop and this 20 something young woman have in common, but she fast talks him into a job. She's the first non-family member he's ever hired. Even his receptionist is a relative. Talba is a fine young woman, who lives at home, with her mother, Miz Clara, by choice, and has been brought up with a strong sense of responsibility. it is partly this moral center that attracts Eddie to Talba.

Talba (or Sandra as she is known within her family) and Eddie go to the home of a young girl who has been molested. All the girl and her friends will tell them is that the person's name is Toes. The girls seem frightened. Shortly, the older sister of one of the girls, is murdered. Talba goes to the funeral and has a feeling of deja vu. But she has no conscious memory of having ever been to a funeral before.

It's Eddie's 65th birthday and Audrey has some of his old cop friends take him out to lunch. On his way home, he is hit by a car and ends up in a coma in the hospital. Talba continues to investigate. By now, she feels a strange attachment to Eddie...as if he were the father she doesn't remember.

Smith has written another fine mystery steeped in the humidity and enigma of New Orleans: she gets the accents, the social distinctions, the neighborhoods. I had grown a little tired of Smith's Skip Langdon but I'm going to have to go back to 82 DESIRE and read about Talba's beginnings. The only mention in LOUISIANA HOTSHOT is that Wallis used to work for a sleazy PI, so there are no spoilers here. This is a great start to a new series

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, August 2001

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