'Imogene In New Orleans'
Hunter Murphy’s debut novel is a charming murder mystery that will have you wanting to hop a riverboat to the Big Easy.
Scroll down for Twitter chat and giveaway details!
I’ve been hearing about Deep South contributor and Birmingham, Alabama, friend Hunter Murphy‘s novel for several years now. When he told me last fall that he had an artist working on a cover design, I knew his debut was getting closer but still wasn’t quite prepared for the day when I would be able to share Imogene In New Orleans with readers.
Murphy’s investment in a book cover indeed paid off. The color of a blue sky on a cloudless day in New Orleans, his cover draws you in with a scene that incorporates some of the city’s most iconic symbols: a riverboat, St. Louis Cathedral and a pair of magnolias. English bulldog Goose — who assists in sleuthing and tasting New Orleans cuisine throughout the novel — makes a cameo as well, while a skeleton in the smoke of the riverboat stacks hints at the mystery that unfolds within.
When Murphy’s heroine Imogene embarks on a road trip from Alabama to New Orleans with her hypochondriac son, Billy, his partner, Jackson, and Goose, it’s to visit some old friends and attend the Louis Armstrong Festival. Instead, Imogene, Goose and the boys stumble upon the murder of their friend Glenway in his French Quarter art gallery. An “oaf of a lieutenant” who arrives on the scene only makes them more suspicious, and they flee the gallery along with their friend Neil.
At Neil’s house in the Garden District, they meet his partner, Allen, and neighbor Lena, also known as the local praline lady. As the group is trying to wrap their heads around what happened, Lt. Rogers screeches up in his police car with his revolver drawn. The events that unfold next have Imogene, Billy and Jackson suspicious of everyone involved, especially as they encounter rude hotel owner Mr. Hill, hustler Buddy, a young man in a strange getup called Catfish and elusive Thurston, who gets around with an ornate walking stick.
Led by Imogene, their amateur sleuthing results in a high-speed chase through the French Quarter aboard a carriage, several trips across the river to Algiers Point, “the charming community with its white picket fences and rustic homes painted like those of small waterfront communities in New England,” and finally the Louis Armstrong second line parade.
The carriage could only clop along at about ten miles per hour, which only accentuated Imogene’s excitement. She urged it onward: “Fly, horse, fly!”
Jackson watched in amazement that she had convinced the driver to handle the vehicle in such a way. Tourists began taking pictures of Imogene, standing tall in the seat while the driver guided the horse with the reins. She kept her eye trained on Catfish, describing his every step as if the driver couldn’t see the runner for himself … Catfish stopped at the “T” in the road up ahead. He was heaving air, and Imogene said, “We’ve worn him out, son. Keep on him. He’s ours for the catchin’.” – Chapter 11
Murphy treats readers of Imogene in New Orleans to an exciting tour of the city, complete with lessons on Mardi Gras, culinary and musical traditions. Although she drives her son to constantly check his blood pressure and can’t be made to behave, Imogene is a whip-smart senior citizen who may have missed her calling as a detective. Together, she and Lena conduct an investigation of their own while the boys attempt to keep them in check.
As I followed all the twists and turns of Murphy’s mystery and arrived at the conclusion of who killed Glenway, I was sorry to see this tale come to an end. In the words of Imogene, “Well, this is a fine place to visit, boys, but we oughta come back when there ain’t no trouble.”
Something tells me Imogene is going to have a tough time staying out of trouble though, especially with Murphy’s plans to continue this as a series. What else does he have in store for his spunky senior citizen, the boys and Goose? More mysterious adventures throughout the South I hope.
Chat & Giveaway Details
We’ll be chatting with Hunter Murphy via Twitter Friday, January 23, about Imogene in New Orleans from 1-2 CST using the hashtag #southernlit. (Log into our chat room here.) Hopefully Murphy will tell us more about his real-life inspiration for Imogene, his own bulldog and his future plans for the series. He’s also agreed to give away three copies of the book. Comment on this review and/or participate in the chat for a chance to win. We’ll announce winners on Monday, January 26. You must live in the U.S. to win.