Louisiana Bigshot: A Talba Wallis Novel

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9780765343802: Louisiana Bigshot: A Talba Wallis Novel

A Talba Wallis Novel

By night the glamorous Baroness de Pontalba, by day New Orleans’ hippest P.I., Talba Wallis is dumbfounded when she can’t do a simple background check on an old friend—Babalu Maya just doesn’t seem to exist on paper. Four days later, she doesn’t exist at all.

As Talba threads her way backward through Babalu’s short, difficult life, she finds an intricate pattern of violence and fear, and a shadowy Mr. Big with homicidal intent. Talba butts right into everybody’s business in Clayton, Louisiana, a small town with a big, ugly secret, where being black, mouthy, and smart are the three qualities most likely to get her killed. As she uncovers dark truths, events and people spiral into nasty motion in a story that has more twists and turns than the Mississippi River.

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Review:

Talba Wallis, hip and happening PI, a.k.a. the Baroness Pontalba, star of the New Orleans avant garde, was first introduced in Louisiana Hotshot and returns in this deft, well-written mystery about Babalu Maya, a "healer" who wants to know if her boyfriend is cheating on her. Shortly after Talba confirms her client's suspicions, Babalu dies of a heroin overdose the police are certain is a suicide. But both Talba and Jason, Babalu's contrite and confused boyfriend, find it such an improbable scenario that he hires Talba to find out what really happened. Unraveling the mystery takes the sassy sleuth with the attitude that's bigger than she is to the small Louisiana town where Babalu was born and to the prominent, influential family that turned its back on her a long time ago. While the plot isn't much more than a routine Southern gothic, the heroine is: Talba Wallis is a lively, engaging protagonist with family secrets of her own that are revealed in a secondary plot that's much more interesting than the primary one. Smith, the author of three other series, has a real winner in this one. --Jane Adams

About the Author:

Julie Smith currently lives and writes in the Faubourg Marigny district of New Orleans, a neighborhood of nightclubs, restaurants and coffee shops where shady characters mix with artists. The author of nineteen novels, she was born and raised in Savannah before escaping to the University of Mississippi. After graduation, Smith became a reporter, first for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and later the San Francisco Chronicle. She lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years before returning to New Orleans.

Smith abandoned reporting for writing mysteries in the early 1980s, writing a series featuring attorney Rebecca Schwartz and a second series starring Paul McDonald, a reporter turned mystery writer whose fate you wouldn't wish on a dog. A few years later, she launched a third series featuring New Orleans police detective Skip Langdon with New Orleans Mourning, which won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel in 1991. She currently alternates between writing about Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis, an African-American poet/private eye who debuted in "Louisiana Hotshot."

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