Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Hunter Murphy, author of the gay Southern cozy mystery Imogene in New Orleans! “What in the world is that about,” you ask? Here’s the description:
Imogene Deal McGregor has lived nearly three-quarters of a century in Alabama. She has a penchant for following her own instincts, as well as more grit and spunk than her hypochondriac son, Billy McGregor, and Billy’s impulsive partner Jackson Miller can handle. The boys take Imogene to New Orleans with their devilishly handsome English bulldog Goose, hoping to visit friends and attend a second line parade, but moments after arriving in the French Quarter, they find their friend Glenway Gilbert murdered in his art gallery. Immediately, Imogene and the boys run into a temperamental and ethically-challenged lieutenant who appears hell-bent on neglecting the crime, compelling them to seek answers themselves. As they delve into Glenway Gilbert’s murder, Imogene and the boys realize the deceased artist was surrounded by suspicious friends and lovers. With Goose the bulldog by their side, Jackson and Billy seek answers among old friends and new enemies, while Imogene follows her own ideas on the case. But the sooner they solve the murder, the sooner they can get back to catching beads and eating pralines.
It’s kind of an odd book, really, but I enjoyed it. Hunter based the characters on himself, his partner, his mother-in-law, their dog, and some friends they have in New Orleans — but he says if he bases characters on real people again he’ll have to do a better job of disguising them, because you can’t be sweet to people in a mystery, you have to make them all look guilty! His fondness for the characters really shows through in the book, though, and I like that. He gave an interesting book talk on how Imogene came about, and confirmed my impression from reading his book that he would be super fun. Plus I adore that cover and the tiny bulldog in the corner…
There’s nothing hardboiled here, but there are a lot of funny chase scenes and arguments as it goes along. The mystery structure is simple but effective — I didn’t guess the murderer. Of course, as with most cozies, rushing to the big reveal isn’t that important an element. I actually bought this on my Kindle and read it in short chunks on my breaks at work, waiting on dinner meetups, things like that, and it was the perfect strategy for me… I can’t know how I might’ve felt about it reading it all the way through, but reading a little at a time, I started looking forward to my “Imogene breaks” and I’m a bit sad they’re finished.
My only real criticism is that my favorite part of the book is the characters, but that’s also my least favorite part, because I kept wanting a deeper connection to them. I loved Jackson and Billy and they seemed really sweet together, and of course I love the dog, but I wish we’d gotten into their heads a little more. We don’t really get to see their thoughts beyond who they suspect at any given time. I wish I’d been able to hear their thoughts and emotions. So, that’s part of what made the book odd to me… I really wanted more of a connection, but it’s because I already loved them!
I recommend picking this book up if you’re looking for something light or you enjoy Southern fiction. I’ll be looking forward to the sequel!