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By Laura Childs

Berkley Prime Crime, 2010 ($24.95)

ISBN-10: 0425236749
ISBN-13: 978-0-425-23674-1

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Halloween, and the Day of the Dead, is fast approaching, and Carmela Bertrand and her gal pal Ava Grieux have a commission to build a giant monster puppet for the annual Monsters and Mayhem Torchlight parade in the French Quarter in New Orleans. The various puppet makers have been allowed to work on their projects in the building owned by the Pluvius Krewe. Carmela and Ava have a few more adjustments to make, and Brett Fowler, the snooty and arrogant captain of the Krewe, tells them to be sure and lock up. He leaves, and is followed out by Jekyl Hardy, a premier Mardi Gras float maker and antiques expert, and a close friend of Carmela and Ava. They can hear the two men arguing. That's no surprise, there's been bad blood between the two for ages. Then they hear what sounds like a banshee wailing, and, throwing caution to the winds, they rush outside. Brett Fowler is arrogant no longer, done in by a macabre weapon. Hardy is nowhere to be found.

Feeling sure there is no need for a rescue team, Carmela calls her hunky man friend, Detective Edgar Babcock, aka Snuggle Bunny. He arrives shortly, wondering once more how Carmela manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time so often. Carmela and Ava tell him all they can remember, including the fact that their friend Jekyl, and Ava's assistant, Miguel, were among the last to leave the building. Naturally the police put those names high on the suspect list, even though the gals declare they are innocent.

It soon becomes obvious that Brett had made a long list of enemies, including his estranged wife and the investors he swindled in a Ponzi scheme. One of the latter is Carmela's ex, Shamus Meecham. She thought he was finally out of her life, but he thinks differently. He calls and asks her to try to get Babcock to tell her how the investigation is going. He's well aware his name will show up on the suspect list, as he'd invested heavily in Fowler's scheme, using money from his family's bank. Jekyl asks her for the same favor, and what's a gal to do? She tries to entice the information from Snuggle Bunny, and even tells him important things she's heard from her wide circle of friends, acquaintances and frenemies. New Orleans is at heart a small town, where everybody knows or knows of everybody else, and secrets are hard to keep secret. She is rewarded by Babcock's insistence on her staying away from the crime. Carmela is a strong woman, and she does not take this well.

She and Ava go on about their business, snooping and spying when they can. They attend a Vampire Ballet, and through no fault of their own they encounter another murder victim. Later, they lead a tour of some local ghostly hangouts, assuring the group that it's all in fun. Until it isn't.

This is the eighth book in the highly entertaining Scrapbooking series. As always, there are scrapbooking tips and recipes for many of the mouth-watering dishes the ladies partake of during the course of their investigation, and their partying.

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