With Mardi Gras coming up next week, this seemed to be a good time to celebrate a bit early with a very good mystery that takes place in New Orleans - World War II era New Orleans, to be specific. Yet although Frances Crane's "The Indigo Necklace" was written in 1945, it is set in a part of New Orleans which seems timeless, the New Orleans seen by most tourists: the French Quarter, the fine restaurants, the music and more. "The Indigo Necklace" is the subject of this week's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review by clicking here.
"The Indigo Necklace" features Crane's delightful series characters, Pat and Jean Abbott. With detective Pat carrying out his investigative duties for the Marine Corps in the area as World War II nears its conclusion, the Abbotts have found lodging in New Orleans with an army doctor friend, Roger Clary, who lives in a charming old French Quarter mansion along with a good many extended family members. Well, charming, yes, but with some dangerous undercurrents, perhaps: just about everyone living in the house appears to be in a relationship with some other resident, regardless of marital status. And, of course, it's Jean Abbott who stumbles over the body of a woman in the mansion's garden. The body is that of Major Clary's wife, a woman with an incurable brain disease - and who, because of her insanity, could not legally be divorced by her husband.
Her doctor suspects foul play - and he blames the woman's nurse, who has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared. When it turns out that the dead woman apparently was poisoned with curare, the police arrive on the scene - and as the victim was a very wealthy woman, and Roger is clearly in love with someone else, the police inspector in charge of the case, Captain Jonas, becomes convinced of Roger's guilt. But the Abbotts doubt that Major Clary murdered his wife. Captain Jonas, though he still believes Clary is guity, welcomes Pat's involvement - and he and the Abbotts proceed to explore the facts of the case as they eat their way through some of New Orleans' most fabulous restaurants.
"The Indigo Necklace" is a good mystery, fairly presented, and the timeless New Orleans setting merely adds to the overall enjoyment. It's back in print in a new edition from the Rue Morgue Press. I have reviewed the book more extensively at Sally Powers' "I Love a Mystery" newsletter, and I am grateful to her for letting me republish portions of it here.