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by Martin Hegwood
St. Martin's Press, July 2002
247 pages
ISBN: 0312202776

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jack Delmas is a private investigator working out of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He specializes in doing freelance investigations for insurance companies, which means he spends a lot of time undercover. He has done pretty well at it, choosing to work only 6 months a year and turning work away. He got into investigating when he went to work for a guy known as "Big Jim". However, Big Jim was murdered, and Delmas has always felt it was the work of a Dixie Mafia type by the name of Andre Mouton.

Checking out some information for one of his cases, Jack goes into a bar in New Orleans. He is immediately attracted to the female bartender, a woman by the name of Barb. When she gives him a hard-luck story about needing to find the whereabouts of a guy named Toulouse, he just can't say no. Barb suspects that Toulouse has been the victim of a murderer, based on a description of a dead man given on the news. Delmas believes that the murder is the work of Mouton, given the crime scene with candles, a sheet and a box shaped like a coffin, the signature of a killer labeled by the police as "Undertaker".

Delmas checks it out and runs into more death and mayhem, including the murder of Barb, for which he becomes the main suspect. It appears that Toulouse may have double crossed a drug lord by the name of Rickie Dee who is running his operation out of an icemaking plant in Bay St. Louis. Danger and death abound; and Jack is assisted, much to his reluctance, by Barb's sister. Unfortunately, she adds an element of "amateur sleuth" to the plot that does not serve it well, as she tends to be pigheaded and get in the way.

Hegwood vividly portrays the New Orleans setting, showing the seedier side of town away from Bourbon Street and the typical tourist destinatio ns. He captures the flavor of the place, with its sights, sounds and smells. However, my mystery taste buds remained unsatisfied. Jack focuses on Mouton to the exclusion of almost all others in his investigation; yet, we never really get a handle on that character. The potential for the development of an interesting evil villain was lost. Mouton's mother, Mere Marie, is a voodoo queen, but we only see hints of what that is about in the narrative.

I was disappointed in Big Easy Backroad. It was a fairly standard read with nothing much out of the ordinary. The book was like a gumbo without any vegetables, bland.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, September 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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