A Cajun Christmas Killing: A Cajun Country Mystery
by Ellen Byron
A Cajun Christmas Killing: A Cajun Country Mystery
3rd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (October 10, 2017)
Hardcover: 304 pages
E-Book ASIN: B06XW23LPG
Maggie Crozat is back home in bayou country during the most magical time of the year. In Pelican, Louisiana, Christmastime is a season of giant bonfires on the levee, zydeco carols, and pots of gumbo. Except, this year, the Grinch has come to stay at the family-run Crozat Plantation B&B. When he floods travel websites with vicious reviews, Maggie thinks she’s identified him as rival businessman Donald Baxter. That is, until he’s found stabbed to death at Maggie’s workplace. And Maggie and her loved ones become top suspects.
The Crozats quickly establish alibis, but Maggie’s boyfriend, Detective Bo Durand, remains under suspicion. With Bo sidelined during the investigation, Maggie finds herself forced to work with an unlikely ally: longtime family enemy Rufus Durand. Her sleuthing uncovers more suspects than drummers drumming, and lands her in the crosshairs of the murderer.
The sleigh bells are jingling, and the clock is ticking for Maggie and Rufus, who must catch the killer or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noël in A Cajun Christmas Killing, the recipe-stuffed third installment of USA Today bestselling author Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country mysteries.
4 out of 5 stars
I absolutely love this series. I’ve grown to really love the Crozat family and some of the other supporting characters in this book.
I love the way Louisiana is described. The detail described in the book allows you to picture everything as if you were there yourself, and since I’ve never been to Louisiana, that just makes the experience that much better for me. I also love the recipes that are included with each book and will be trying them out soon!
The mystery in this one had me stumped. My suspicion kept jumping from one person to the next and ended up being someone I didn’t expect. The mystery was very well written and there were plenty of suspects to choose from.
I’m looking forward to reading more books from this series in the future.
Interview with Ellen Byron:
- Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from New York, went to school in New Orleans, and live in Los Angeles, which is weird because I LOVE the rain and miss it very much. But when I decided to transition from being a playwright to being a television writer, I had to move west. There’s very little TV work in NYC, especially in sitcoms, which was my focus. I wound up working on shows like WINGS and JUST SHOOT ME.
- How long have you been writing?
Since the early 1980s. My first play was a one-act called GRACELAND that was presented as part of the Actors Theatre of Louisville Shorts Festival in 1982. It was published after that, and I was off and running. In addition to my published plays, I was a freelance magazine writer specializing in entertainment. I wrote a lot of celebrities overcoming obstacles stories for magazines like Redbook.
- Tell us about your books.
My Cajun Country Mystery series takes place in – wait for it! – Cajun Country. My protagonist, Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat, has returned home to the small, picturesque town of Pelican, Louisiana, after living and working as an artist in New York City. She helps out at her family’s plantation turned B&B, and works as a tour guide at Doucet Plantation, which her mother’s family once owned and donated to the state. For a bucolic little town, there are a lot of murders, and Maggie’s finely tuned visual acuity helps solve them. She meets a hot new detective in town, Bo Durand, and they develop a relationship. Bo has a seven-year-old son with Asperger’s Syndrome who Maggie becomes very close to. Oh, and each book has recipes inspired by Cajun cuisine.
4. Do you have a certain writing process or routine?
I generally create what I call a fluid outline before I start writing a book. This is where I lay out the bones of the story, plus great beats and lines I’ve come up with thinking about it. I call it fluid because it may change – at least chapters might. I’ve found that the story pretty much stays true to my original outline. In terms of writing, I force myself to do it for at least fifteen minutes a day. Of course, I end up writing much longer. But on days when it’s harder – when the muse just doesn’t show up – at least I have the satisfaction of working for those fifteen minutes.
5. Who has been your favorite character to write so far?
I have to favorite characters to write for, besides Maggie, my protagonist. I love writing Grandmere, because she’s smart and witty, yet has a bit of Maggie Smith from Downtown Abbey in her. Ad I love writing criminal defense lawyer Quentin MacIlhoney. He’s just so good-humored and affable. I wish I could get him in there more!
It can be hard writing Maggie’s parents, Tug and Ninette. But I’m really excited because I gave them a really fun b-story – that’s TV talk for secondary story or subplot – in the fourth book, MARDI GRAS MURDER. That’ll be out in 2019.
6. Did you always know that you wanted to be an author?
No, I wanted to be an actress! I’m embarrassed to even say that now. I got a theatre degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, then returned to my hometown, NYC, to pursue acting. I did that for about four years, but only landed small roles and voiceover work. I joined Actors Equity Association, and had to give up non-union work. That’s what drove me to writing plays. I was bored. So I wrote a play my friends and I could do. It was chosen for a reading at a theatre company, and I couldn’t be in it and the rewrites needed. So a playwright-journalist-tv writer-novelist was born. But my dad was in advertising – he was a real-life Mad Man – so writing was in the genes. Both of my brothers are also writers.
7. Do you have another job or do you write full time?
I’ve been a full-time writer pretty much ever since I started. The only other thing I ever did was teach playwriting and writing courses.
8. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write! Seriously. I write because I have to more than I want to. I can’t not write. It’s all I want to do. But it’s a tough, erratic life. So really gauge if it’s truly your passion. Then find other writers to hang out with. Start a writers group or join one. If you want to write a particular genre, find the organizations that support it. I belong to local chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and they’ve been phenomenally helpful.
9. What genre do you like to read?
Mysteries! I also like non-fiction. I love Erik Larson’s books. I.e., The Devil in the White City.
10. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Play with my dogs. And I’m craftsy. I needlepoint, make jewelry. I also spend a ridiculous amount of time on Facebook. I go down that wormhole way too often.
11. Are you working on anything right now?
I just turned in the fourth book in my series, MARDI GRAS MURDER, and I’m waiting to see if the publisher wants me to write more Cajun Country Mysteries. I sure hope so! In the meantime, I’m writing a stand-alone mystery inspired by the 1933 disappearance of my grandfather, who was a low-level Jewish mobster.
Body on the Bayou, the second in Ellen’s Cajun Country Mystery series, won the Left Coast Crime Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Her debut book in the series, Plantation Shudders, made the USA Today Bestsellers list, and was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Ellen is also a recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant from the Malice Domestic Convention. Her TV credits include Wings, Still Standing, and Just Shoot Me, as well as network and cable pilots. As a journalist, she’s written over 200 magazine articles for national publications. Her plays, published by Dramatists Play Service, include the popular Graceland and Asleep on the Wind. A native New Yorker and graduate of Tulane University, Ellen lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and the family’s spoiled rescue dogs.
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