Fortune Redding returns for the biggest challenge yet to this CIA assassin in hiding in the small town of Sinful, Louisiana in Lethal Bayou Beauty by Jana DeLeon. To lie low from an arms dealer who has put a price on her head, Fortune has been posing as Sandy Sue Morrow, a former beauty queen and librarian. Thus, she faces a serious risk of blowing her cover when Pansy Arceneaux, the town beauty queen, returns from Hollywood to hold a children’s beauty pageant and includes Fortune in her plans. Needless to say, in this hilarious series, the Miss Fortune series, where nothing ever goes as planned, the pageant is a disaster. Fortune, told to make up the girls with a royal look, staples pepperoni to a girl, a la Lady Gaga, with no idea that Gaga isn’t real royalty, leading Pansy to a fight between the two women. So when Pansy is discovered murdered later that night, most of the town is certain that Fortune has killed her, ironic since Fortune has killed so many criminals professionally yet for once has not done so.
With pressure against Deputy Carter LeBlanc to arrest Fortune, Fortune and her senior citizen cohorts, Ida Belle and Gertie, former spies known locally as “The Geritol Mafia,” determine to help him out in their own unique way. Their investigation into the life of the girl who in high school slept with every man in Sinful, with the unique exception of Deputy Carter, involves all sorts of wild adventures. In search of information on the case file, they visit a 10-year-old hacker known as The Sorcerer and then break into the sheriff’s office with disastrous results. The search also involves a hilarious visit to New Orleans that involves an encounter with a naked man.
This book is a worthy sequel to Louisiana Longshot and a really fun read. The characters are drawn so fully that they thoroughly come to life, which makes reading this book even more delightful. The author, who is from Louisiana, depicts small-town life in the region ably. I also really appreciated the way that two of the three main characters are senior women, types of characters who often don’t get good parts, whether in books or films. In addition, Ida Belle and Gertie show strong women who have lived their lives without needing the assistance of men. In fact, their Sinful Ladies Society doesn’t even allow married women into their midst, and widows must have been alone for at least 10 years to get rid of the weight of men in their lives. One funny detail is that the society is known for making the best moonshine in Sinful!
Besides being a very funny book, it also has a creative and exciting mystery plot. The twists in the story take some unique turns, with a conclusion I didn’t expect. It takes a real gift to be able to make me laugh this hard while also being intrigued by an enjoyable mystery.
The series is ably narrated by Cassandra Campbell, who brings the book to life. She handles the shifts in accent between the D.C.-native Fortune and the residents of Sinful very well.
I highly recommend Lethal Bayou Beauty to anyone who enjoys either humor or mystery and maybe even those who don’t particularly care for either. The book uses so much creativity that it’s well worth reading. I give the book five stars!
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