Mortal Sins Hardcover – Jun 1 2000
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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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
Police Officer Damon ï¿½Dayï¿½ 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 Rourkeï¿½s 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 victimï¿½s glamorous movie star wife, Remy. Sheï¿½s also the one woman who broke Rourkeï¿½s young heart. Rourke thought heï¿½d 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 heï¿½s determined to prove her innocence regardless of the consequences. Things become even more complicated when Rourke learns that the ï¿½systemï¿½ wants to pin the murder on his childhood friend Lucille, a beautiful black woman who was the victimï¿½s 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.Read more ›
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. ****
The author does a good job of capturing details. The plot could have used a stronger editorial hand. However, the book is still worth reading.
I like New Orlean. In fact I always thought of it as the anti-Disney World, a town with a surface gloss of tourism, but where they wash the streets of the French Quarter down early every morning to remove the puddles resulting from the previous night's excesses.
Step back now to 1927 when booze was illegal but available nearly for the asking, Freudian psychology was still a new topic of conversation, and racism was an accepted way of life. A lawyer-- with a debauched way of life that raised no eyebrows and a practice of defending Blacks who had fallen afoul of the New Orleans legal system that caused some consternation among his peers-- is hacked to death in an old slave shack behind his home of Sans Souci.
Damon Roarke, a detective on the New Orleans Police force, is called to the scene. Roarke was reared by his drunken abusive Irish father, who had died a hero's death while performing his job as a policeman. Roarke's mother had deserted them when Roarke was 7 to live with her upper class Creole lover. Damon had grown up in poverty with three good friends.Read more ›
The beginning of the novel has all the makings of a hardboiled detective mystery, but that is not the case, rather than being cynical, the hero is a romantic, living in a corrupt world, way ahead of his time, acting like the knight in shining armor, never having to face the consequences of his actions. Rather than dealing with the mystery or writing believably about regular peoples' lives, as mysteries tend to do, this one obssesses with family secret and intrigue. The atmosphere and the and the detective's dark past are there for atmosphere and have no impact on what happens.
The writing is detailed and engrossing, but tends to ramble and dwell too much on family intrigue like a daytime TV Soap.
Most recent customer reviews
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