Blurb- Melanie Hamilton brings home the bacon by inking tattoos at New Orleans’s Mansion at Mystic Isle, a resort in the middle of the bayou that caters to fans of the peculiar and paranormal. But when a guest of the resort, a millionaire’s widow, is poisoned, and Melanie’s close friend is arrested for the murder, things go from hectic to downright dangerous.
Genre- Romance? Supernatural thriller? Mystery?
My rating- Didn’t finish it 😦 Belongs in the litter box
Here’s Mystic Mayhem in a nutshell. Mel works as a tattoo artist in a renovated mansion done up for parlor tricks; Voodoo rituals, seances, dark performances, etc. The mansion caters to rich people who want to believe in the spirits of the dead floating all around, and just anyone into the “dark” arts.
Mel is hot for an employee named Jack, and her best friend, Cat, also works there. Early on in the book, Mel’s friend, Fabrizio, who does seances, as a parlor trick, is hired to perform a ceremony to contact the spirit of a rich widow’s husband. During the ceremony, the old woman dies, and when authorities investigate, they eventually, after a slow, tortuous process sans any real investigation, come to believe Cat was the killer, even though if they had dusted for prints, which they didn’t seem to do during the time they spent in the seance room, the room they didn’t even bother to cordon off, they would not have found Cat’s prints because she was never in the room, nor did she handle the clams or the plate on which the clams were served, which are the supposed murder weapon, and even if she had touched anything, everybody else would be a suspect, too, including the chef, who was instantly eliminated….
I was quite a few chapters in Mystic Mayhem before Cat becomes the lead the suspect, but for me, it just doesn’t add up. Apart from the overly flowery and metaphorical writing–everything is a metaphor or a simile. Everything is like something else–this is a direct recounting of things that happen before they happen, as they happen, and again after they happen. I just didn’t like it.
She fell in step beside me as we double-timed it along the riverfront walkway to where the dedicated ferryboat for The Mansion at Mystic Isle bobbed against the old-fashioned wooden dock. We jumped onto the brightly painted flat-bottom boat with a few minutes to spare.
George, the ferry conductor, swept off his Mystic Isle cap, offered a toothy smile, and gave us an exaggerated bow. “Miss Hamilton,” he drawled. “Miss Gabor. Glorious mornin’, ladies. Dat f’sure.”
Mid-July. It wasn’t noon yet, and the temp had already climbed to the high eighties. There wasn’t even the slightest breeze, and the humidity was no less than killer. You almost had to pull the air apart like a curtain just to walk through it. Yep, a glorious day, all right. My T-shirt clung to me like wet wallpaper. The light complexion that went along with my strawberry-blonde hair wasn’t ideal for life in a place where the sun beat down like my own personal heat lamp. I was thankful for the ferry’s canopy.
While I was sweating like a hooker in a front-row church pew, Catalina bestowed a smile on George that was cool as aspring mist over a clear lake. No wonder he was nuts about her.
The only other passengers were a few of the dinner kitchen staff and the hotel’s voodoo priestess (her official title) who ran the Who-do Voodoo We-do Shop at The Mansion.
The Mansion at Mystic Isle was where Cat and I worked. Located in Jefferson Parish across the Mississippi from New Orleans at the edge of a bayou, the main building was an old plantation house set among cypress trees and expansive green lawns. It had been handed down through the Villars family for centuries. Not all that long ago, Harry Villars, the down-on-his-luck, but no less genteel and stylish owner, had the brilliant idea to turn his liability into an asset by repurposing the place into a resort where folks dedicated to the supernatural and all kinds of magic could come and get their creep on.
The Mansion was decorated like the haunted house we’ve all seen at that theme park—you know the one. Ours was similar—creepy organ music when you crossed the threshold, drafty hallways, creaky doors, secret passages, even fake cobwebs. The whole shebang, chère. Harry Villars sank every cent he had into it and crossed his fingers that the place would raise him to the ranks of the solvent—then he hired all of us, a complete cast of soothsayers and charlatans, to convince hotel guests the supernatural stuff that went on at The Mansion was the real deal. But just between you, me, and the gators, it’s not.
Cat was the gypsy fortune-teller, and did she ever look the part. Flashing dark eyes, long, flowing locks the color of cappuccino. Her lips always looked as if they were stained persimmon without any lip-gloss, and her size Ds were nothing short of a masterpiece. When she left our apartment in the French Quarter to head to work, she dressed like any regular twenty-eight-year-old knockout, but once her shift began at the resort, she was decked out in layers of gauzy jewel tones and bling, lots and lots of bling.
Me? I was the designated artist at The Mansion’s Dragons and Deities Tattoo Parlor. My work costume was a slinky black gown with a V-neck, empire waist, and a big stand-up collar that fanned all the way around the back of my neck from one collar bone to the other. I think the effect was intended to be darkly glamorous, but most days I felt more like the Count von Count Muppet than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I would have preferred that free and easy Stevie Nicks look Cat pulled off, but it wasn’t in the cards—not when I was forced to wear a full bib apron on top of that gorgeous creation to avoid spraying ink all over it.
When I walked out of college with my degree in fine arts, I never would have suspected tattoos would be my groceries, and I still don’t consider myself to be your typical tattoo girl. No leather bustier or nose ring, and the only tattoo on this girl’s milky skin is a tiny Tinker Bell on my right shoulder.
(Here I have to interrupt the excerpt- as a lover of tattoos, I can tell you a fine arts degree won’t get you working in a tattoo parlor. Holding a vibrating piece of metal that needles into moving, human flesh is an art for which you have to apprentice! A skill set not all extrapolated from oil paintings on canvas, which Mel does.)
The boat motor revved. The signal horn blew, and the ferry pulled out into the strong draft of the mighty Mississippi River, brown as liquid chocolate and churning like a whirlpool. Cat and I leaned against the railing, shoulder to shoulder, and I turned my face into the wind created by the movement of the boat. It cooled me off a little.
“You look nice today,” Cat said.
Oh. My makeup must not have been running down my face like melting Häagen-Dazs yet. “Thanks, Cat. So do you.”
“Well,” she said without the slightest bit of arrogance, “I look nice every day.”
I nodded. When you’re right, you’re right.
“You hoping to run into Cap’n Jack, girl?” Her voice was sly.
I bumped her shoulder with mine. “You pokin’ fun at me?” It was true. I had taken extra care with my makeup and hair that morning. Some VIPs were checking in at Mystic Isle today, and I knew the manager, Jack Stockton, would be up front and present to take care of them.
“Poking fun at you? No, girl, no way. Settin’ your cap for a man like that is some serious stuff.”
A man like that.
Jack Stockton—Cat and I had taken to calling him Cap’n Jack—was the recently hired general manager at The Mansion on Mystic Isle. The story was he had been the golden boy moving up the corporate ladder at an international chain’s premier property in the Big Apple when disaster struck. The hotel chain’s CEO had arrived in New York from Frankfurt for a look-see at his crown jewel. The grapevine rumored that Jack Stockton met a stunning blonde with a provocative Marlene Dietrich accent at the hotel lounge. The two hit off and wound up back at his place. The next morning Jack discovered the blonde was the boss’s twenty-five-year-old bride of only six weeks. They didn’t even let him clean out his desk, and once the story got around, poor Jack couldn’t even walk into a hotel without turning every head in the place. At least in the Big Apple.
But New York was a far cry from the Big Easy.
The Mansion at Mystic Isle was just getting a foothold, and the idea of having a man as capable yet desperate for work as Jack Stockton sat just right with Harry Villars, who needed someone with monster talent to manage his supernatural resort project. The weird goings-on, unusual clientele, bizarre employees, and rumors of hauntings at our beloved place of employment had already driven off three general managers. I had high hopes for Jack.
He was smart, experienced, and would probably do whatever it took to make the place a success. And besides, Harry Villars was gay. It wasn’t likely Jack would get caught in bed with Harry’s significant other, my good friend the Great Fabrizio. Still, Jack would need every bit of skill and cunning he could muster to get this albatross on solid ground. I think Ifell in love with him the first time he lifted that chiseled chin and showed me that smile.
Saying Cap’n Jack was easy on the eyes was an understatement of Biblical proportion. Dark eyes, slightly almond-shaped. Smooth, swarthy skin. Full lips that slid easily into a lopsided sexy smile and short, dark hair my fingers itched to lace themselves into. The Fifth Avenue suits he wore to work every day appeared tailor-made to fit his athletic body but still somehow looked out of place on him. My mind’s eye insisted on imagining him in boots, jeans, and muscle shirts. And when he came to me in my dreams, he wore a lot less.
He was a really nice guy whose New York ways made him a duck in the desert among the laid-back, slow-talking New Orleanians, Cajuns, and swamp rats at Mystic Isle.
On his first day at The Mansion Jack stood in front of the entire staff and told his tale about the consequences of looking for love in all the wrong places. He made sure we laughed at what had to be a difficult and embarrassing incident in his life and made us all as comfortable with him as he was with himself. Honesty and good humor were just about the two sexiest traits a man could have. And Jack had both—in spades.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked his sophisticated style, so much that whenever he even walked into the room, I came apart like a house of cards in a wind tunnel. At least that was how I felt. He made me warm and cold, excited and nervous, happy and scared all at the same time.
The whole story is rather choppy. Mel and Cat get to a place. Then, the writer sets up the event by explaining everything. Then, Mel and Cat go there to experience the event, they stop, and the writer tells me about everyone. and their business, and their history, and everything else, which has nothing to do with the actual story or the events taking place. I did not like this story at all. Every time I was about to get into it, it stopped, and the writer told me everything about everything before the event happened, so what was the point? Blech!
Like I said at the beginnning, I actually didn’t finish it, which is pretty rare for me, but I just couldn’t make whiskers or tails out of this thing. Was it a comedy? A romance novel? A supernatural tale? Some kind of mixture? Mixing genres is fine, when it works. It didn’t matter what it was, because it wasn’t really a story, a book, it was someone prattling on about their day as though I could project my feeling into theirs, and I just couldn’t.
I didn’t feel any suspense, any love, any fear, nothing. This story was words on a page, like a friend trying to act out a movie she’d seen by telling me all about it, and then stopping the story to tell me about why something was the way it was. Really, blech.
As always, when I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Here’s a review by someone who did like it-
What a fun mystery! And it’s set in my favorite city to visit, NOLA! Well, technically most of it is in the imaginary Mystic Isle Resort, but it’s still on the bayou. The characters are just too much fun, and the humor is excellent. The mystery plot is well executed with many interesting twists, and the locale descriptions are clear. The publisher’s blurb is adequate and is no spoiler. Looking forward to the next book with great anticipation!
I don’t know about the above book review. If you ask me, this person didn’t read it, but take a chance…if you dare! Mwahahahaha!