Book Review: Imogene in New Orleans

Imogene in New Orleans
Hunter Murphy

For those of you who don’t already know, Hunter Murphy is one of Birmingham Public Library's own. He started with BPL in the Business and Economics Department at Central, which is where we met and worked together lo, these many years ago. I can’t pretend to be unbiased—when the author is your friend it tends to color your perceptions. That said, I’ll do my best to be fair: I LOVED THIS BOOK!

If you “know what it means to miss New Orleans” you’ll enjoy this romp through its courtyards and squares. The descriptions of the city and the French Quarter are dead on. Even old friends of the Crescent City may discover facets of life they've only imagined and their appreciation for N’awlins will deepen.

When Jackson, Billy, and Billy’s mom, Imogene, discover one of their friends dead in his art gallery, the action begins. Suspects and suspicions abound until it seems almost everyone (except Imogene and the boys) have something to gain by his death. The mystery is compelling, but the most enjoyable part of the novel is the dialogue between the characters. Jackson and Billy are long-time partners, but their relationship is just a relationship—not a device or the focus of sturm und drang. This is not a mystery about a gay couple; it’s a murder mystery with delightfully quirky Southern characters, some of whom happen to be gay. Imogene is a feisty matron who is determined to prove her independence and cleverness. Her down-home speech and stubbornness are instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever dared to tell their Southern mama what to do and not do. Billy is a tiny bit of a hypochondriac (who doesn't count at least one of these in their circle of friends?) and Jackson is the one who must comfort, direct, safeguard, and protect his family while trying to find out who murdered their friend. And since no true Southern story can take place without a dog, there’s Goose, the bulldog—or possibly he’s a four-footed carpet sweeper ever on the alert for crumbs.

This is a delightful whodunit, with charming characters, beignets, horse-drawn carriages, jazz music, murder, intrigue, corruption, night clubs, chases, good friends, hustlers, artists, parades, and a spoiled bulldog. Let Imogene, Goose, and the boys gently lead you on their comical search for the killer!

Kelly Laney
Springville Road Regional Branch Library
(Copies are available for check-out from BPL.)