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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
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.
Class and racial mixtures, open infidelity and hidden affairs are the underplot of what is not really a murder mystery. Read morePublished on Dec 9 2003 by Charles J. Marr
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. Read morePublished on June 7 2003 by Mara
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. Read morePublished on April 25 2003 by Melly
Sharply defined characters, a plot within a plot, and a story as hot as New Orleans in August! Absolute page turner. Read morePublished on April 16 2003 by Lizzie
Penelope Williamson spins a lush story, complete with sharply drawn characters and a plot within a plot. Read morePublished on April 16 2003 by TheCatoman
Another James Lee Burke/Dave Robicheau similarity: detective has never met a goon he likes; occasionally boils over and slams goons' heads onto bar tops, making bloody mush of... Read morePublished on June 26 2001
Very juicily-written swamp-saga, with yummy, Faulknerian characters and a detective who should be played by Russell Crowe if it's made into a movie. Read morePublished on June 22 2001
"Mortal Sins" is intolerably bad writing. Williamson heaps cliche upon cliche, and the result is a predictable bore of a novel.Published on April 18 2001 by Sue