Select one of the keywords
Mean Woman Blues    by Julie Smith order for
Mean Woman Blues
by Julie Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder in the case of Julie Smith's Skip Langdon mysteries. We last heard from the New Orleans policewoman in 1999's 82 Desire. Since then, Smith has written mysteries in other series, and I've missed reading about the eccentric characters who seem to thrive in the humid New Orleans climate. In Mean Woman Blues, Skip's home life has settled down, now that her longtime boyfriend Steve has moved from California back to New Orleans. But her personal contentment is soon threatened by the imminent sentencing of Daniel Jacomine, son of Skip's nemesis, killer and sociopath Errol Jacomine.

Errol went into hiding several years before the book opens, but Skip knows that he is still out there watching her. She starts dreaming about the insidious Formosan termites which are eating the city of New Orleans in 'greedy gulps'. The dreams reveal a 'fear about dropping her guard, of looking away for even a second, of forgetting the danger that always lurked'. When strange things start happening to Skip and those around her, she knows that Errol is orchestrating them. First someone shoots at Skip and then Steve's beloved dog is poisoned. Eventually Skip is able to convince her bosses of the danger and links up with FBI agent Turner Shellmire, who has been hunting Jacomine for years.

In Mean Woman Blues, we meet Errol Jacomine and Terri Whittaker. Errol, now in hiding, has decided to reinvent himself as a TV talk show host. Morphed by plastic surgery and speech therapy, he helps those who have fallen on hard times, with the fervor of an evangelistic preacher. (Along the way, the author gets in a few amusing digs about the whole talk show genre.) Buoyed by his success, Jacomine wants to enter politics, but he is still driven by a passionate desire to kill the 'devil's spawn', policewoman Langdon. So he orders attacks on her and her loved ones. Terri Whittaker is a young starving (literally)artist who just happens to be dating Jacomine's estranged son Isaac. When Terri and Errol's orbits overlap, Errol's anger at Skip escalates even further and all caught in its path are in danger.

What sets the Skip Langon books apart from the pack of mysteries - even from the best of those with well-drawn female protagonists - is excellent characterization and plotting. Smith presents key characters in different chapters, each from her or his own viewpoint, hence making them fully 3-dimensional. At first this may be confusing, but soon Smith links her characters together in creatively constructed plots and the books become hard to put down. The very first Skip Langdon mystery, New Orleans Mourning (published in 1990), won an Edgar for best first mystery. The subsequent eight Skip Langdon books have lived up to this fine start, providing us with great mystery reading.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews