I was surprised when I saw this on Amazon not too long ago - I thought author Greg Herren had "retired" his two mystery series set in New Orleans - the Chanse McLeod mysteries and the Scotty Bradley mysteries. Both series are set in New Orleans with gay protagonists, and Herren connected the series with a police detective and her partner who appeared in both series; however Chanse and Scotty have never met (yet!). There are seven books so far in the Chanse McLeod series, and Garden District Gothic marks the seventh book in the Scotty Bradley series. Perhaps that's why Herren wrote the book, was so that the two series would have an equal number of books. Whatever the reason, I'm glad he did it, as Scotty, his two partners, and his unique family are always fun to read.
Scotty Bradley is a former fitness trainer, a former stripper, and a newly licensed private investigator (although he's never actually had any paying clients to date - every murder he's solved is one where he has stumbled across the body and inadvertently become involved in the investigation). He has not one, but two partners - a three-way relationship with an ex-FBI agent-turned-professional wrestler, Frank; and a secret covert government agent for an unspecified agency, Colin. Their relationship is anything but typical, but then again, Scotty's own family is just as unusual. His parents are hold-out hippies who still smoke pot on a regular basis, who protest anything and everything, and who named their children Storm (Scotty's brother) and Rain (Scotty's sister). Of course, Scotty isn't that normal - his full name is Milton Scott Bradley - yes, Milton Bradley (which is why he goes by Scotty).
Oh, and Scotty has a connection to the "Goddess," who sometimes comes to him with cryptic clues about what is going on in his life, or who guides him to answers through the tarot cards he keeps in a cigar box under his couch. So, with all of these unusual situations in his life, you can imagine that following him as he tries to uncover a murderer can be easily engaging.
Garden District Gothic jumps ahead in time, as we find Scotty and his domestic life settling down. Scotty is starting to put on a couple of pounds around the middle, which isn't setting too well with him, and he finds himself becoming the doting (and worrying!) parent to Frank's nephew, Taylor, who lives with them after his family kicked him out when he came out. Colin is off on a secret mission, and Frank is away on a wrestling gig. Which becomes the perfect time for a new mystery to solve. Only this mystery isn't really so new - it's actually 25 years old.
Herren gives readers an interesting look at the lives of the rich and infamous when he has Scotty become involved in the 25-year old murder of a six-year-old beauty queen, Delilah Metoyer. Her older brother tormented Scotty in high school, and now he's back - only this time, he's asking for Scotty's help. A long missing mother who somehow escaped the notice of the press when Delilah was killed all those years ago ... a step-mother who left town and now lives alone, breeding cats for sale ... a twin brother who committed suicide ... a father who went to the grave with a deadly secret ... a sister who could care less ... a tell-all sensationalist author who may know more than he realizes ... and a voodoo priestest who could hold the key to Scotty's uncovering the truth once and for all. Who is lying, who is hiding something, and who killed whom?
While the mystery is good and the characters engaging, Herren's writing style has become a bit repetitive. I don't recall ever noticing it in prior books as much, but here, he repeats the same phrases and background information again and again. It's almost like he's either beating the reader over the head with certain information because the reader might forget ... or perhaps he forgot himself that he just said the same exact thing only a couple of chapters before. It does get a bit distracting after the first several times - - but the mystery was good, so I can give it a pass this time around.
Now, with both Chanse and Scott having seven books each under their respective belts, perhaps it's about time Herren brought his two super-sleuths together for one really big murder mystery - now THAT would be a book I'd love to see!
RATING: 7 episodes of Grande Dames of New Orleans out of 10 for bringing readers back to the Big Easy to share another adventure with the stripper-turned-detective.