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by Julie Smith
Forge Books, May 2001
304 pages
ISBN: 0765300591

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You like unusual, flamboyant, poetical, characters in your mysteries? Meet Baroness Pontalba. You like strong female detectives, willing to step in when it's required? Meet Talba Wallis. You want atmospheric, moody, exotic and even dangerous settings in your crime fiction? Meet New Orleans. Read Louisiana Hotshot.

Julie Smith, author of over a dozen good novels already, has fashioned a top-notch story with a vast cast of eccentric, often lovable, sometimes dangerous, characters and put them into out of the ordinary action. And, if the resolution is a little out of focus, it certainly is consistent in tone and true to the characters and the situation.

Poets, whether in New Orleans or elsewhere, generally don't make much money. And even with her exotic good looks, her undeniable talent, the Baroness Pontalba requires something a little more substantial to maintain her life style. She's gaining considerable respect in the avant guarde circles of smoky clubs and loose societies of struggling writers, but that respect and even acclaim doesn't pay the bills. So the Baroness, as Talba Wallis (almost her real name), cranks up her top-of-the line computer skills and answers an ad for a young computer nerd. Turns out, a small private investigative agency operated by Eddie Valentino placed the ad and Talba soon has a day job, her investigator's license, and is neck deep in an investigation of a nasty child abuse case.

Eddie Valentino is white, old, from New Jersey, and comes with an unusual family. He hates computers. Talba Wallis is black, native New Orleans, and comes with an unusual family. She's a computer whiz. The case starts with a very angry woman who tells Valentino that her young daughter was raped at a party by a man known only as Toes. The case is complex, convoluted and you'll have to read to book to learn more. Anyway, it is the writing, the atmosphere and the characters that make this an outstanding novel, a great read. I look forward eagerly to more encounters with Eddie and the Baroness, mama, Angie and the rest.


Carl Brookins





Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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