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The New York Times bestselling author of Gossamer Ghost returns to the Big Easy and the historic Garden District, where scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand discovers a bride-to-be murdered in the legendary Lafayette Cemetery…
Carmela couldn’t imagine a finer evening than dinner at Commander’s Palace with her beau, Detective Edgar Babcock. The food and the company are equally divine—with the exception of Isabelle Black stopping by to brag about her upcoming wedding. Resuming the romance with a walk in the evening air, the couple is interrupted once again—this time by a terrifying scream from inside the cemetery.
Having just seen Isabelle, Carmela and Edgar now find her lying across an aboveground tomb, strangled to death with a piece of vintage lace. Carmela would rather leave the investigating to Edgar, but she can’t say no to Isabelle’s sister Ellie, the tarot card reader at Juju Voodoo, when she asks her to help. As she untangles the enemies of Isabelle’s past, Carmela hopes she can draw out the killer before someone else gets cold feet.
INCLUDES SCRAPBOOKING TIPS
About the Author
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Shar-Peis.
Read an Excerpt
Commander's Palace wasn't just the most storied restaurant in New Orleans. For Carmela Bertrand it was pure magic.
Carmela knew this for a fact because she was sitting in their Garden Room at this very minute. And not only was she nibbling soft-shell crab and sipping an awesome Montrachet, but she was staring into the inquisitive blue eyes of her fella du jour, Detective Edgar Babcock.
Maybe it was the wine, no doubt crafted by wily Bacchus himself, that had cast such a luscious spell. Or maybe it was the soft, warm light from the gilded candelabras, the old-world charm and formality of the place, or that crazy second course of oysters baked in absinthe and buttered crumbs. Whatever the reason, Carmela was definitely feeling it. Luxuriance, exhilaration, and romance. Sweet, bubbly romance.
"This is so lovely," Carmela said, trying to pitch her voice an octave lower so it was sexy and seductive, kind of like Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. Or maybe Lauren Bacall in one of those old black-and-white movies from the '40s.
"You're lovely," Babcock replied.
And Carmela really was. Her blue-gray eyes, fine features, and tawny-colored hair (this week's color, anyway) gave her an air of exuberance and creative curiosity. She was toned and fairly athletic from lots of dog walking with Boo and Poobah, but still enjoyed a few sweet curves. And, yes, she could be stubborn, but was generally quick to administer a hug or kind word.
Carmela took another sip of wine. "I have to say, this dinner has been pure perfection. If every restaurant reviewer in the universe hadn't already bequeathed four stars to this place, I would have sprinkled them on myself."
Babcock smiled and reached across the table to gently take her hand.
"Why are you talking that way?" he asked.
Carmela's eyes went slightly round. "What way?"
"Like you've got the beginnings of a head cold. Or are doing an imitation of a character from The Simpsons."
"Oh." Then, "I didn't mean to."
"You've just fallen completely under my spell, is that it?"
"Well . . . yeah," said Carmela, reverting to Valley girl speak. Now she wasn't sure if he was flirting with her or putting her on.
Babcock gave a low chuckle. "You're such a little cutie, you know that? One of these days we're seriously going to have to . . ."
"Carmela!" A loud, impassioned shriek suddenly split the air.
Startled, Carmela and Babcock both whipped their heads sideways, only to find an exuberant-looking blond woman grinning at them, all teeth and gums and big Southern hair.
"Uh . . . hi," Carmela said as she scrambled to dredge her memory, to put a name to this face. "Isabelle?" She said it tentatively because she really wasn't sure that was the name of this young woman who'd just hit an earsplitting high C as she stormed their table like a pirate commandeering one of the king's galleons.
Isabelle's smile got even wider and brighter, and she said, "You remembered."
"How could I forget?" Carmela said, when she really had forgotten. Well, almost.
"Has Ellie been keeping you in the loop about all my big wedding plans?" Isabelle asked. Ellie was Eldora Black, Isabelle's sister and the tarot card reader who worked at Juju Voodoo, the little shop across the courtyard from Carmela's French Quarter apartment. The voodoo shop, a kind of funky, fun tourist trap, was owned by Carmela's very best friend, Ava Gruiex.
"Ellie has shared a few things with me," Carmela said, lying as gracefully as she could. She glanced over at Babcock. "With us." Now she gave Babcock an encouraging nod. "You remember Isabelle, don't you? She's one of the assistant district attorneys."
"We've met," Babcock said politely.
"Just two more weeks," Isabelle said. She held up two fingers and then fluttered her hand nervously as her engagement ring caught the light and glittered like a disco ball.
"That's some gorgeous ring," Carmela said.
Now Isabelle preened a bit. "Isn't it? Three carats, a VS2."
"Sweet," Babcock said, gamely trying to interject himself into a conversation that had suddenly turned girly.
Flustered by the attention, Isabelle took a step back from their table. "I hope you two are still planning to attend my wedding."
"Absolutely," Carmela said. She had an awful feeling that she hadn't actually mailed back her RSVP. She'd been busy and scattered lately, what with teaching a series of card-making classes at her scrapbook shop, Memory Mine. Oh well, maybe she could short-circuit things and give her reply to Ellie. Yeah, that oughta work just fine.
Isabelle glanced across the room where two of her friends waved at her, one tall and blond, the other short and dark haired. "Well, I'm afraid I have to hustle off. I've been tasting cakes with Naomi and Cynthia and a few other folks from the wedding party." She rolled her eyes. "And now I have a thousand other things to nail down."
"I'll bet you do," Carmela said. She gave a little wave as Isabelle scampered away. "Bye-bye. Good luck." Then, when Isabelle and her friends were out of both sight and earshot, she leaned across the table and said, "Do you recall me inviting you to her wedding?"
Babcock shook his head. "Nope."
"Do you want to go? Do you want to be my plus-one?"
Another head shake. "Nope."
"Come on," Carmela said. "Don't be an old poop. Weddings are exciting, romantic events filled with dancing, champagne, good food, and excellent cake." Carmela was particularly fond of cake, though champagne wasn't too far down her list, either.
"I'm pretty sure I have to work," Babcock said.
"You don't even know when her wedding is," Carmela snorted. "So how do you know if you'll be called upon to bust an international smuggling ring of ladies' designer flip-flops or chase down a homicidal maniac?"
But Babcock didn't answer. He was suddenly frowning at the check that had been surreptitiously deposited at their table, running quick computations in his head.
Hmm. He was good at dodging bullets, that's for sure, Carmela decided. Probably from all the practice he got as a police detective.
She narrowed her eyes and studied him carefully. He was quite a catch, this guy. Tall, lanky, ginger-colored hair, nice high cheekbones. A man who walked into a room and immediately projected a certain weighty presence. Plus he had a penchant for snazzy clothes. Really snazzy clothes, like Ralph Lauren Black Label and Moncler. Tonight he was wearing a Burberry Brit jacket that widened his shoulders and nipped his waist. Always a good thing.
Babcock glanced up and gave her a warm smile. "Ready to go?"
Carmela returned his smile. Her upper lip dipped in a soft Cupid's bow, a luscious, rounded lip that most women would kill for. Or pay good money for in a plastic surgeon's office.
"I could get used to this, you know," Carmela said. She meant the dinner, the togetherness, and then some. The and then some meaning the two of them would eventually head back to her place for a nice Sunday-night canoodle.
"So could I," Babcock said. He held out a hand and helped her up from the chair. Then, he slid both arms around her, pulled her close, and gave her a quick kiss.
"Uh-oh," Carmela cautioned. "PDA."
Babcock arched back an inch. "What's PDA? Some kind of women's political group? A new design project?"
She brushed her lips across his cheek, feeling his warmth and energy. "You know, public display of affection."
"Oh, that." He chuckled and grabbed her hand. "Come on."
Outside the restaurant, the November evening had turned cool and breezy. Though it was full-on dark, the exterior of Commander's Palace twinkled with multiple strands of lights. Turrets, columns, gingerbread swirls, and balustrades were all shown off to full advantage, gilded and glittering like a Mardi Gras float. Turquoise and white awnings flip-flapped in the wind while the restaurant's trademark neon sign hummed softly.
The whole of the Garden District was spread out around them, stately and sublime, as if it were its own proud principality governed by some unseen archduke. Lush gardens and wrought-iron fences surrounded block after block of palatial Greek Revival homes, with a few Queen Annes and Victorians thrown in for good measure. And, if you strolled down First Street, you might even encounter a fanciful Gothic home, owned by a famous author of vampire books.
Carmela and Babcock walked down Coliseum Street, heading for Babcock's blue BMW, which was parked at the end of the block. Across the scuffed blacktop, where dry leaves scritched and scratched, hurried along by little puffs of wind, stood the notorious Lafayette Cemetery. Dark and ominous-looking, this was one of New Orleans's oldest and most infamous Cities of the Dead. Here, crumbling tombs, ancient crypts, and hulking mausoleums stood shoulder to somber shoulder, more than seven thousand residents interred in a one-block area, attracting and terrifying swarms of tourists as well as locals.
A chill gust of wind suddenly blasted them, and Carmela turned her face into Babcock's shoulder.
"I was thinking that we should-" she began.
An ungodly scream suddenly pierced what felt like a fragile night.
Carmela clutched Babcock's arm. "What was that?"
Another agonizing scream rolled out, but was immediately cut off.
Babcock swiveled his head like a periscope. "Cemetery," he said sharply. He took off running, as if a starter's gun had sounded, leaving Carmela standing all by herself on the sidewalk. In the dark.
She weighed her options for all of one second. "Wait!" she cried. And took off after him.
But Babcock's longer legs had put him easily twenty strides ahead of her. And when he reached the cemetery's fence, he simply grabbed hold of the top tines, wedged a toe into a curlicue, and vaulted over it slick as you please.
"Where are you . . .? Oh jeez!" Carmela cried. She knew she couldn't climb over that foreboding-looking fence in her tight skirt, so she pounded down the block to the formal entrance at the corner, lost her balance and almost spun out, then ducked through the narrow entry.
"Babcock," she called out. "Where are you?" She slid to a stop and listened intently. When she didn't hear anything, she called again, "What's going on?" Then, "Are you okay?"
"Over here." Babcock's faint shout drifted toward her.
Carmela glanced around, decided that his voice had to be coming from practically the epicenter of the cemetery, and then took off at a gallop. She dodged around a row of low, flat, humpy-looking tombs, then sped down a narrow gravel walkway between two mausoleums that were iced by a finger of moonlight. The night felt even darker, more dangerous, in here. Fear trickled coldly down her spine, and the exertion of a full-out sprint made the blood pound in her ears.
Still she kept going, moving and darting ahead.
What could have happened? Carmela wondered. Had someone been attacked? That had to be it. None of New Orleans's cemeteries were particularly safe after dark, and visitors were constantly being cautioned to avoid them. Had Babcock been able to foil this robbery attempt or attack or whatever it had been? Had he given chase to the attacker?
Carmela spun around a stone angel whose upturned face had eroded away over the years from the constant onslaught of heat, wind, humidity, and hurricanes. She dashed past a row of oven tombs, stumbling as her toe caught on the corner of a marble tablet that the earth had heaved up. Righting herself, she listened again but didn't hear anything. So she ran left in a sort of zigzag pattern, still trying to get a bead on where Babcock had called to her from.
Gray clouds boiled up, and the sliver of moon, which had served as a small guiding beacon, slipped behind them. Now Carmela was practically running blind, feeling her way along, touching and grasping cold stone. If only she could . . .
She ran her fingers along the edge of a marble tomb, cool and smooth as picked bones. She glanced up-hoping that the crescent of moon might put in an appearance again. But the night seemed to turn darker, holding a hint of ever more danger.
Carmela scuffed along quietly. She figured she was fairly close to where Babcock might have called to her from. Now if she could only see . . .
A sound, soft and muffled, as if someone might be hunching themselves back into the shadows and hiding from her, caused Carmela to stop dead in her tracks. On high alert, hair on the back of her neck prickling like crazy, she listened as though her life depended on it. And maybe it did.
What was that? What did I hear?
Flattening herself against the side of a large, hulking crypt, she tried to modulate her breathing as best she could. Tried to make every sense keenly alert to what was going on around her.
But, after a few moments, she heard-and felt-nothing.
Carmela slowly released a breath. She was spooked, yes, but she wasn't going to let her emotions run wild. She was going to keep bumbling along and find Babcock. After all, he was in here somewhere.
Carmela moved ahead two steps, then three, her right shoulder still brushing against the side of the crypt, using it as a sort of touch point. She was just about to cry out to Babcock again, to try to get a fix on his position, when she heard a strange, low, creaking sound and caught a rush of something.
The initial spark in Carmela's brain told her it was a shadow coming at her-a grid of light and dark projected by a far-off passing car. At the last moment, she realized it was a rusty iron gate. The heavy, flaking wrought-iron door of the crypt had been flung open on squeaking hinges and was creaking inexorably toward her.
Shocked and totally unprepared, Carmela had barely two seconds to get a hand up in front of her face, a pro forma protest at best, before the gate struck hard against her, pinning her tightly against the crypt's outside wall.
She let loose a startled yelp as her forehead went numb and bright stars danced and flashed before her eyes. She suddenly felt like a captured butterfly pinned inside a display case. Angry, stunned, and struggling to pull herself back to the here and now, she gripped the gate with her hands and managed to croak out, "Help!"
Then she heard footsteps lightly running away from her as she was finally able to shove the heavy door or metal gate or whatever it was off her body.
"Stop!" she cried out. Now her fear had been replaced with fury.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In just a few short moments after enjoying a delectable dinner with her boyfriend, Edgar Babcock, Carmela Bertrand is thrust into the midst of yet another murder and is nearly a victim herself in the gloom of the old cemetery where she and Edgar heard those bloodcurdling screams. The murdered woman, Isabelle Black, was an assistant district attorney, leading to possibilities that her career had everything to do with her death, but Isabelle wasn't exactly a favorite of her about-to-be mother-in-law, Vesper Beaudette, and the scrap of lace used to strangle the woman has its own implications. This time, though, Carmela has no intention of sticking her nose into the investigation; Detective Babcock is perfectly capable of handling things. Fans of Carmela know very well that Carmela can't stay out of it, especially since Isabelle's sister, Ellie, is a friend and she works for Carmela's BFF, Ava, in her voodoo shop. When Edgar enlists her aid in identifying the lace in question all bets are off and Carmela and Ava are in the thick of it (and loving it, truth be told). Once again, New Orleans is a vivid setting and returning to Carmela's scrapbooking shop, Memory Mine, is a treat for those of us who have been following this series all along but Parchment and Old Lace is also an excellent introduction for the reader who's new to the series. Fans of Terrie Farley Moran will be delighted at her collaboration which has brought a freshness to the characters and to the search for a murderer. I don't know if Ms. Childs and Ms. Moran plan to work together again but I will certainly be happy if they do ;-)
I was so disappointed in Gossamer Ghost it was with trepidation I read this offering. It was much better although culprit was apparent mid-book. Carmel a still shows some immaturity. Who would yell across a room to warn a friend rather than just cozy up to them and say, "There's an emergency at the Voodoo shop, we have to go"
Visions of New Orleans quickly fill your head when you begin reading PARCHMENT AND OLD LACE, the 13th installment in the Scrapbooking Mystery series by Laura Childs. Childs, with author Terrie Farley Moran, bring New Orleans to life as they keep you in suspense in this latest cozy murder mystery. The rich descriptions of the historic Garden District and other areas places the reader among the characters as the story unfolds. Scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand and her beau, Detective Edgar Babcock, enjoy a romantic dinner, but have a brief interruption when Isabelle Black stops by their table. After bragging about her upcoming wedding, she leaves. Minutes later on their way from the restaurant, Carmela and Edgar hear a scream coming from the Lafayette Cemetery. There they discover Isabelle, strangled with a piece of vintage lace, lying across a gravestone. Carmela is pulled into the search for the killer by Isabelle’s sister, Ellie. A tarot card reader, Ellie works at Juju Voodoo, owned by Carmela’s best friend, Ava Gruiex. Carmela has no choice but to untangle the clues before someone else dies. The characters are likable, colorful and well-developed. The secondary characters add depth to the story, as well as bits of humor. The bonds of friendship are well defined drawing readers farther into the feel of the story. The blending of a murder mystery with the daily disruptions of a store owner makes for an entertaining read. Moving at a good pace, the story keeps you marveling at what could happen next mixed with the right amount of tension and suspense. Readers don’t have to enjoy scrapbooking to be beguiled by this story. In fact, the scrapbooking tips and tasty New Orleans recipes are just an added bonus. Like a good gumbo, PARCHMENT AND OLD LACE is a mix of all things mystery lovers will relish. FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.
It's autumn in New Orleans... Parchment and Old Lace by Laura Childs The 13th Scrapbooking Mystery It's autumn in New Orleans and Carmela is out on a romantic dinner date with her beau, Detective Edgar Babcock. Their date comes to an unfortunate conclusion when, on their way home, they hear a scream emanating from the cemetery. Both rush in only to find the body of a woman they had spoken with just moments before, murdered with a piece of antique lace. Although Carmela fully intends to leave the investigation in the capable hands of the New Orleans police department, she finds herself involved once again when the victim's sister, who happens to be the tarot card reader at Juju Voodoo, asks for her help. While the book deals with weddings, not only was Isabelle (the murder victim) about to be wed, but Carmela was also teaching a wedding themed class at Memory Mine, it has a decidedly darker feel to it. Parchment and Old Lace brings not only the cooler weather of autumn, but a sense of decay with a cemetery as the crime scene, the use of a Ouija board, and a dilapidated amusement park. Parchment and Old Lace is a great addition to the Scrapbooking Mystery series. We are given a deftly plotted mystery filled with the darkness autumn brings, yet the fun of good friendships and plenty of adventure. As an added bonus we also get scrapbooking tips and some great recipes.
The latest Scrapbooking Mystery by Laura Child, is right on par with the previous twelve. Carmela, owner of Memory Mine scrapbooking store and her man friend Babcock are strolling back to Babcock's car when a gut wrenching scream pierces the air. As they both take off running toward the cemetery, Carmela soon looses sight of Babcock. Running past tombstones and mausoleums, imagine how frightened Carmela must feel when she finds herself trapped between a heavy cemetery gate and a wall of the crypt. Soon it's discovered that the scream belonged to a now dead woman, who was found strangled with a piece of old lace. How is anyone supposed to solve a murder with only a small piece of lace and a smaller piece of parchment as the only clues? Of course Babcock, Carmela and her wacky friend Ava set out to prove who-dun-it. We can always rely on Laura to keep us on the edge of our seats. The fact that she generally gives us great scrapbooking hints and yummy recipes don't hurt a bit. It's almost time to snuggle up with a warm blanket, grab a seat near the fireplace and read, read, read. Please give Laura's offerings a chance, with three wonderful series to choose from, I'm sure you'll find one to suit you. FTC Full Disclosure - A copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would give it an unbiased review. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
I have to start by saying, I was thrilled to see that author Terrie Farley Moran collaborated with author Laura Childs on this book. I adore both of them, so this was exciting news for me. It looks like book thirteen in the Scrapbooking Mystery series is lucky #13 for Laura Childs! You may think an author who has written so many books in different series would run out of things to write about. But you would be Oh. So. Wrong! It seems every new book by this author is better than the one before. PARCHMENT AND OLD LACE had main character Carmela Bertrand and her boyfriend Detective Edgar Babcock, hit the ground running by page six. The mystery and excitement only continued to grow form there. This extremely well written story was fast paced, with interesting, multi layered characters. Everything readers have come to expect of this author. You’re going to want to pick up a copy of this crafty mystery for yourself. Don’t scrap (see what I did there? ;-) ) this book when you’re finished with the story or you’ll missing the crafting tips, yummy recipes, and the excerpt of DEVONSHIRE SCREAM, the new book by Laura Childs in her Tea Shop Mystery series! You're also going to want to check out author Terrie Farley Moran's Read 'Em and Eat Mystery series with WELL READ, THEN DEAD being the first. Once you've read one of her books, you'll see how her writing "voice" blended so with that of Laura Childs.