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Mortal Sins [Hardcover]

Penn Williamson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 26.22
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Book Description

June 1 2000
New Orleans, Louisiana. 1927. Creole aristocrat Charles St. Claire is murdered, his throat slashed with a cane knife. Police discover his wife, Hollywood sex goddess Remy Lelourie, next to the body, drenched in blood. Chief investigator Daman Rourke, who loved and lost Remy years before, wants to believe she is innocent, even though he has seen her kill before. As the evidence against Remy mounts, three more murders rock the city, and Rourke is torn between old loyalties and his pursuit of the truth. As he follows the trail of death and betrayal through the back alleys and roaring jazz haunts of the French Quarter, he finds himself led ever deeper into the guarded secrets and sins of none other than New Orleans oldest and most respected family.

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From Amazon

A stunning thriller with a rich cast of characters and one of the most complex, intriguing protagonists since James Lee Burke introduced Dave Robicheaux to readers, Mortal Sins stakes out a piece of the same territory. New Orleans is the setting, and the atmosphere in the city that care forgot is sexy, rich, and sultry, not unlike movie goddess Remy Lelourie. Lelourie once loved and left a young man who grew up to be homicide cop Daman Rourke, a brooding hero who's never forgotten Remy or forgiven her for betraying him. He hasn't seen her since she married Charles St. Claire, the present owner of the Lelourie ancestral mansion, which is haunted by a century-old crime as shocking as the brutal stabbing of St. Claire with which Remy is now charged. And only Daman knows she's capable of murder; after all, he's seen her do it before, and kept silent when she arranged that death to look like a suicide. Tortured by the memory of their affair, her betrayal, and his abiding passion for her, he nonetheless sets out to prove Remy's innocence, and is drawn into a web of family secrets, tangled ancestry, and southern (in)justice.

Williamson seasons a thick Louisiana gumbo with all of the above-mentioned ingredients for success, as well as bootleggers, the blues, absinthe, and cocaine. Set in the Roaring '20s, this standout debut has a decidedly contemporary attitude as well as enough sex, sin, and mystery to keep the reader enthralled long after the last page is regretfully turned. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Faithful fans of bestselling romance writer Penelope Williamson may enthuse about her crossover into mainstream suspense, but thriller aficionados will conclude that it takes something more than a slightly altered pseudonym to ratchet up the tension. Set in 1927 in New Orleans at the height of the Roaring '20s' speakeasy days, this relentlessly atmospheric tale of murder and miscegenation mistakes excessively wordy prose for rich and stylish language. When a wealthy playboy lawyer is found slashed to death in a former slave cabin on his family estate, New Orleans cop Daman Rourke--an ex-WWI flying ace--is appalled by what looks to be an open-and-shut case against the obvious culprit, Remy Lelourie, Rourke's childhood sweetheart, who has just returned to her hometown a triumphant goddess of the silver screen. The plot takes more turns than the bayou waterways in describing the hero's tragic marriage, his mother's tawdry affair with the scion of a wealthy family, a boyhood friend-turned-gangster boss, a poor black prizefighter wrongly convicted of murder and his beautiful light-skinned wife, who is abused by her husband's attorney. Cluttered with similes and descriptions (sometimes good, more often strained) and murky flashbacks, the narrative suffers through a maze of repetition early on, as the author struggles to establish the web of obscure subplots. The story eventually becomes more lucid as it approaches the home stretch. But, alas, Williamson never quite manages to extricate the colorful characters from a boggy morass of metaphoric quicksand. Despite a genuine sense of place and story, she winds up shortchanging the suspense with too much purple prose. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a book I'd read again. April 16 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Set in 1920´¿s deep in the Louisiana bayou Mortal Sins presents so clear a portrait of the time period it´¿s almost as if you were there feeling the oppressive heat and smelling all of the scents the bayou has to offer. Unfortunately, one of those scents is death.
Police Officer Damon ´¿Day´¿ Rourke is called to the murder scene of a prominent lawyer who has been mutilated and brutally butchered and the story, for the most part, is told from Rourke´¿s perspective. Rourke is connected to the case in many and numerous ways and only becomes more entangled as the story unfolds. The major suspect in the murder case is the victim´¿s glamorous movie star wife, Remy. She´¿s also the one woman who broke Rourke´¿s young heart. Rourke thought he´¿d buried thoughts of Remy deep within him. He even married a woman who is now conveniently (or tragically, depending on your level of cynicism) dead and is raising his young daughter alone. Alas, when he sees Remy again all of the hurt, pain and all consuming love comes crashing back and he´¿s determined to prove her innocence regardless of the consequences. Things become even more complicated when Rourke learns that the ´¿system´¿ wants to pin the murder on his childhood friend Lucille, a beautiful black woman who was the victim´¿s reluctant mistress.
Mortal Sins is a book rich in description. Everything from the murders, the racial tensions of the time, to the hot sweltering landscape is painted with exquisite detail.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Can you say Kate Chopin? Dec 9 2003
Format:Hardcover
Class and racial mixtures, open infidelity and hidden affairs are the underplot of what is not really a murder mystery. This is a sociological investigation of the fluctuating web of old families, political power, inheritance -of property and personality- and passions. Of course these themes were touched upon in Chopin's story about racial identity a hundred years ago.with much less wordiness.
If you have the time, it is a tour of dusty mansions, cities of the dead, and places outsiders do not go, but it is a long read. And languid.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read June 7 2003
By Mara
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I finished this book in about 3 days. I absolutely couldn't put it down. It practically had me sitting on the edge of my chair. It's not often that a book such as MORTAL SINS really grabs me and keeps me enthralled for 3 to 4 days. I look forward to reading Penn Williamson's THE WAGES OF SIN.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow April 25 2003
By Melly
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was outstanding. I don't say that lightly either, as I can usually find something wrong with everything. Not so, in this case. The story takes place during the flapper era in New Orleans. Ms. Williamson has a deep atmospheric style of writing that is perfect for this setting. Her characters are real and completely three dimensional, with both good and bad characteristics. Sometimes you want to hate them, but other times they're heroic. In other words, they're very real people you'd like to know. It's a great mystery with a surprise ending. I highly recommend it for a hot summer day.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mortal Sins April 16 2003
By Lizzie
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sharply defined characters, a plot within a plot, and a story as hot as New Orleans in August! Absolute page turner. If you're looking for perfect characters, then forget this book. Damon Rourke is twisted and focused on fighting his own insecurities and demons, while Remy Lelourie is self-absorbed, manipulative, and as screwed up as Damon. No one ever said fictional characters should be likable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mortal Sins April 16 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Penelope Williamson spins a lush story, complete with sharply drawn characters and a plot within a plot. As a native of Louisiana, I found little to fault with Williamson's portrayal of culture and race relations. Read every word and rushed out and bought the sequel, The Wages Of Sin (which I thought was even better). Crack for the thriller fan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading here March 18 2003
Format:Hardcover
New Orleans has ever been a sultry place, filled with voodoo magic and secrets. It is no less so in the twenties, perhaps more so than now. Slavery is not that far in the past, and the lines between the races are still clearly drawn, though the African Americans "fortunate" enough to be light skinned have the hope of "passing" or finding a protector if they are attractive and careful enough.
Murder has invaded the beat of detective Day Rourke, and the suspect is the woman he loved and who broke his heart. Remy St. Claire achieved fame as a cinema queen who dances on the edge of pornography. She married a rich man, and now stands accused of killing him. Day has the challenge of proven her innocence, though all indications say otherwise. Charles St. Claire won't be the first to die though, and the secret of his murderer is not the only one that comes to light.
**** In this complicated, sensual novel, Ms. Williamson breaks out of the mold she has long been associated with writing. Romance is not the emphasis in this dark and brooding mystery. The characters tend to the seedy side, even the heroes, and its atmosphere is that of film noir. ****
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