Vieux Carre Voodoo by Greg Herren
Former go-go boy turned detective Scotty Bradley is back!
When an old family friend apparently commits suicide from his French Quarter balcony, Scotty’s life accelerates from boring to exciting again in a nanosecond. Why would anyone want the old man dead, and what were they looking for in his ransacked apartment? It’s up to Scotty, Frank, his crazy family, and friends to get to the bottom of this bizarre mystery – and when an old, all-too-familiar face turns up, it’s not just Scotty’s life that’s in danger, but his heart.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the fourth book in the Scott Bradley mystery series but it’s the first one I’ve read. There is no mention of the book being a series on the publisher’s site so I took a chance. Thankfully the story can easily be read as a standalone due to the lengthy preamble which summarizes all the action up to that point. If you’re not familiar with Scott Bradley, the beginning brings you up to speed. Fans of the series can use the section to catch up or can simply skip it. After this the book picks up with a new mystery and continuing action in Bradley’s life. There are parts of the book I really quite enjoy and parts I hate entirely. I finished the story frustrated unfortunately and not sure I’d continue with the series.
After you’re caught up with the series and have a quick look at the important players, the mystery starts in right away. Scott gets embroiled in a 40 year old theft and mystery when several interested parties want the object that was stolen. He’s immediately and intimately involved on several levels and has no choice but to try to solve the mystery. With his lover away and his ex-lover making a surprising return, Scott’s easy, happy life has suddenly become complicated and exhausting.
The story blends a mystery component with a loose romance aspect, which I wish had been left out since the mystery aspect is the best part. The mystery is quite good although there are a few holes and leaps in logic, most of which are easily covered by the secret agency “need to know” line thrown around frequently. Overall the progression is nice, logical, and quite entertaining. Scott needs to find the missing religious relic that has very serious religious, political, and socioeconomic impacts. There is some high level political intrigue thrown in with a random weapons of mass destruction angle, none of which are really needed because the mystery in and of itself simply works. Scott’s minor psychic ability fits well with the religious implications and watching him figure out the clues to finding the icon is the most entertaining aspect of the book. He’s clever without ever going too far into the outrageous. There are gun fights and secret agents without feeling like you’re watching a typical spy movie. The action is quick paced and makes the pages completely fly by without noticing.
The background of New Orleans is incredibly well depicted and comes vividly alive. The details included are effortless and natural. Clearly the author lives in and loves the city on an intimate level. You feel as though you’re walking the streets of the French Quarter or the Garden district without lengthy descriptions that can be boring. Instead, the detail is woven into the story constantly but with an ease that helps you experience the city as well as the adventure. Likewise the writing has moments of eloquence when it sinks into the action and gets really moving. Occasionally the prose stutters sometimes with too many quick statements that feel rote and uninteresting as they describe the characters actions.
But thankfully these are offset by the more fluid writing that usually kicks in with more interest.
The characters are decently developed but really the main character is Scott. Everyone else, including his two lovers, just move in and out of scenes as necessary so the story relies on Scott a lot. He’s an interesting man but I didn’t fully understand him and his choices. Perhaps this is where not having read the previous books is a disadvantage. It’s also the area I like the very least. Scott and Frank initially got together with a third man named Colin. Colin is introduced to the reader in the preamble as the man that was actually an undercover assassin and murdered two of Scott’s uncles before fleeing. Scott mentions several times how devastated he was over Colin’s lies and actions. He mentions how hurtful they were to his entire family, yet the minute Colin shows up everyone accepts him easily.
Colin’s reappearance is supposed to throw tension into the story but it feels flat since no one is really angry at him. Scott has a few internal moments of saying he could be upset but why bother and these are very weak given his previous emphasis on his hurt and anger. Even Scott’s parents berate Scott for not forgiving Colin on the spot. This threw me and totally pulled me out of the story. I didn’t understand why the book was making such a point of saying how horrible Colin’s actions were if everyone forgave him so easily. And since they forgave him incredibly easily – you’d think he’d have been late to dinner versus disappearing for three years under a cloud of murder and suspicion – I didn’t understand why the story persisted in dragging out the storyline. At many points Colin’s involvement in the mystery feels totally superfluous and only added as a way to reintroduce him into Scott and Frank’s lives.
If the story had stayed almost fully on the mystery, I think this would be a series I’d really enjoy and devour. Unfortunately the way all the characters acted towards Colin made no sense and had me frustrated with the book. When Scott is running around figuring out the mystery, this is a very entertaining, enjoyable romp with a gorgeous New Orleans setting. When he starts to think about feelings or any emotion with depth, the book veers off course and can’t really pull it off. The relationships are interesting to read but lack a real depth that allows them to connect with the reader. Perhaps this is easier in the context of the whole series and an area fans can appreciate more. I can recommend the book for the mystery aspect but the relationship portion had me throwing the e-reader.
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2 thoughts on “Vieux Carre Voodoo by Greg Herren”
Great review, Kassa! This does sound complicated — I mean, a stolen artifact, weapons of mass destruction, and a minor psychic ability? I’ve been kind of eyeing this series, hoping it would get to Kindle because I think I’d enjoy the New Orleans setting. The relationship stuff does sound like a misfire. Maybe the author is a mystery writer at heart and really doesn’t want to write romantic elements and yet was advised to do so for marketability?
Thanks Val! It’s complicated but I think it works well here. It has a lot of chances to run off the rails but the author keeps a good hand in keeping the mystery interesting and somewhat realistic. It’s ok to suspend a bit of disbelief in the search of a good mystery romp.
As for the relationship stuff, I think it happens with any good mystery series that relationships are going to come into play. You can’t avoid it since usually the day to day life of the main character(s) play just as important a part as the actual mystery. Perhaps if I’d read the prior books I could understand the instant forgiveness better. Or why the tension is dragged out when the resolution is clear. Perhaps that’s more spelled out over the course of the 4 books.
I think instead the author was a bit too ambitious in putting both an involved mystery and a difficult relationship problem together. Its’ hard to balance the two and I think if the relationship problem had been an entirely new book, it’d have been better.
Just my opinion though and like I said… I can easily recommend it for the mystery.