by Sandra Murphy
& Ellen Byron
This week we have a review of another Halloween mystery, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron, along with an interesting guest post by Ellen about the rougarou in the new book. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and links to purchase it.
Murder in the Bayou Boneyard: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron
Review by Sandra Murphy
Things are going pretty well at the Crozat Plantation in Pelican, Louisiana. The guest rooms are booked, Halloween is near, and Maggie’s relationship with Bo couldn’t be better. The bookings are due in part, to a plan Maggie devised. A phone app had locals renting out spare bedrooms, which hurt B&B business. Pelican’s Spooky Past features crafts, down-home cooking, a pet costume parade, and a play that takes place in the cemetery.
A letter from previously unknown Canadian relatives is cause for celebration, as is their visit. Susannah is distantly related to Maggie’s father. Of course, in Bayou country, there’s no such thing as a distant relative. Everyone is kin.
Susannah arrives with her husband, Doug, and his adult twins, Johnnie and Bonnie. Maggie has just opened a small spa on the property so guests can relax and be pampered. Susannah announces she’s a massage therapist—what could be better? She’s soon booked solid with appointments. Unfortunately, she also claims to be psychic and in giving readings, is stepping on the toes of the town’s voodoo priestess, certainly someone you don’t want mad at you.
Tourists are claiming to have seen monsters in the woods, causing some cancellations or adding ghoulish thrill seekers. During the play, a rougarou (werewolf) staggers from the woods, collapses and theatrically dies. The audience assumes it’s part of the play. Having sat through it three times, Maggie knows better. She’s still in for a shock when the costume’s head is removed and a familiar face is seen.
Before the police can begin to solve that death, another body is found. Things are looking worse and worse as the Crozat family could very well have a motive for a murder or two.
The Crozat Plantation is a place you’d want to visit as Maggie’s mom cooks delicious meals. Take a tour of nearby plantations to see the guides dressed in their hoop skirts as they share the history of the house. This is book six of the series, all reviewed here, and often found on my Best of List at the end of the year. Recipes include: Holy Trinity chicken (onions, bell peppers, celery), ghoulish Cajun goulash, crawtatoes (alternately shrimptatoes), Cajun pecan cookie fingers, as well as a list of which recipes are in the other books. Then there’s the sugar high pie which has pecan pie base mixed with a bit of bourbon, dark and milk chocolate, coconut and raisins with suggestions of dried dates or cherries, said to serve 6-8 (not once you get a taste of it!)
Byron also writes as Maria DiRico. Don’t miss the first in the series, reviewed here, Here Comes the Body, a catering hall mystery, set in New “Yawk.” The second book will be out soon.
“A Rouga-what now?” The Mythical Cajun Monster
By Ellen Byron
If you look closely at the tomb on the cover for Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, my latest Cajun Country Mystery, you’ll see a pair of scary red eyes shooting out a death stare. These demon peepers belong to a mysterious creature known as a rougarou.
When I was noodling with ideas for this book, I asked readers what they’d like to see in a Halloween-themed mystery set in my fictional town of Pelican, Louisiana. One reader replied, “A rougarou.” I hadn’t heard the word since my college days at New Orleans’ Tulane University, so I did some research. As soon as I read about the creature, I knew I had to use him – yes, him; I’ve yet to read about a female rougarou – in the plot for my book.
So what exactly is a rougarou? It’s the Cajun version of a loup garou, known in French-speaking countries as a creature who is half wolf and half man. Sort of like the American werewolf, but with some specifically Cajun quirks. The rougarou is said to prowl the swamps, woodlands, and sugar cane fields of South Louisiana. The Louisiana version of this monster also incorporates a dose of vampiric legend. The rougarou is under a spell for a hundred and one days, after which the curse of becoming a rougarou is transferred to a different person when the existing monster sucks the victim’s blood. The one hundred-and-one days figure so puzzled me that I transferred my bewilderment to a character in the book….
Emma shuddered. “Ugh, I hate that stuff. A hundred and one days seems arbitrary. Why isn’t it a hundred days? Or a hundred and ten?”
Maggie shrugged. “Got me. Our ancestors were a superstitious lot.”
The rougarou has embedded itself into Louisiana culture. The city of Houma hosts a yearly Rougarou Fest. Amateur sports teams call themselves The Rougarous. But images of the imagined creature, no matter how he’s utilized, are pretty disturbing. He doesn’t have the sex appeal of a vampire or the anti-hero vibe of a werewolf. He’s just flat-out terrifying. For centuries, Cajun parents have threatened misbehaving children with a visit from this monster. I can guarantee you that if I were a Cajun kid goofing off and my mama threatened me with “You better straighten up or I’ll sic the rougarou on ya,” I’d get my act together real fast. Google “rougarou images” and you’ll see what I mean. The depictions I dug up of rougarous resulted in a couple of intense nightmares.
Is the creature in Murder in the Bayou Boneyard real? Is it a prank? Or is it something far more sinister? I won’t give away the answer. But I promise that you’ll be spared the bad dreams I had doing rougarou research.
Or maybe you won’t…
To enter to win a copy of Murder in the Bayou Boneyard, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bayou,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 17, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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