By: Pauline B. Jones
If you’re looking for the perfect romantic suspense setting, look no further than New Orleans. With carriages, old buildings, succulent things to eat, and dreamy jazz played by street musicians, it is totally a romantic destination.
It’s also got lots of swampy ground so secrets can ooze up and complicate things for heroes and heroines. Cemeteries, nooks and murderous crannies with lots of potential for (fictional) mayhem. In fact, I noticed (and commented on) so many great places for bad things to happen, that my hubs started asking random strangers to request an autopsy for him if he died suddenly (he’s still alive and totally fine, btw). It’s a city that has inspired both fictional and actual mayhem for many years.
Any time of year is good for a (fictional) murder, but summer has some distinct benefits, the main one being bodies decompose fast in the heat. I know, not that romantic, but a great perk for your (fictional) killer. There is also something about the sultry heat, the riot of out-of-control green growing things, soaring oaks festooned with hanging moss, and that “let the good times roll” attitude, that lends itself to (fictional) mayhem.
If the summer is just too hot for your characters and your killer is on the noisy side, don’t discount the benefits of Big Easy’s many loud holidays. Heck, when the Cabildo caught on fire, the street performers showed up to add a sound track. You can find a holiday a month and Mardi Gras, well it sometimes puts a foot in two months. Sometimes it even gets cold enough that lovers need to huddle up to warm up.
One of my favorite potential (fictional) murder settings is the Zoo-To-Do, a huge charity fund raising event held yearly at, you guessed it, the zoo. To properly set the stage, I’d like you to close your eyes and picture your typical zoo. Critters. Habitats. Pathways. Booths of souvenirs and places to eat. Families with kids, strollers maybe. School groups being herded from place to place. You know, a zoo.
Now remove all the people. And the sun. The humidity stays, though. This is New Orleans.
The party starts after dark. The air is thick with moisture and maybe it has cooled off a couple of degrees. But it’s still hot, real hot. People flow toward the entrance. All of them in formal attire. That’s right. Tuxedos and fancy dresses. I was wide-eyed before I got out of the car. And I wished I had gills. The air was that thick.
Hubs handed over our tickets and they let us inside. It’s the zoo, but it’s not the zoo I was used to.
Everywhere there were lights and so many people. They were trying to talk, but you couldn’t hear them over the music. Great music. Some Cajun, Zydeco, Jazz, blues, rock, country—you name it, they played it. We passed a place where there was dancing. You haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen “Cotton-eyed Joe” being danced by people in formal attire.
The lights were brilliant, so bright they made the dark dense. You couldn’t even see the outlines of bushes unless you got real close. But you don’t want to. It’s dark. And not all the critters are in enclosed habitats.
There were canopies, semi-private enclosures for group parties within the main party. I later learned there were “private” portable toilets in the corners. You read that right: portable toilets and formal attire. Imagine trying to use an outhouse in a formal.
Now try to scrub that image out of your brain.
There were stations, tables scattered around, weighted with food provided by some of the city’s most famous restaurants. Each one had one of their specialties to try. No one went hungry, though, because there were a lot of tables, a lot of samples. All of them to die-for good.
Perfect for a last meal.
I was munching on something and the music stopped abruptly. And in that tiny moment of almost silence, I heard roars from the various animals. Because we were in their space and they did not sound happy about it. I realize then that there might been eyes, watching eyes, in those deep, dark spaces where the light didn’t reach. Lions and tigers and bear eyes.
Alligators. And possibly some pissed off peacocks.
Now tell me you wouldn’t think, “Wow, this is a great place to commit a murder.”
Or course, I probably shouldn’t have said it out loud.
We moved from New Orleans ten years ago, two years before Katrina, but when I got ready to start a new, romantic suspense series, I guess it was inevitable I’d (fictionally) return to New Orleans for some (fictional) mayhem. It was amazingly easy to slip back into that New Orleans state of mind, to recall how suited it is for (fictional) mayhem. Because the Big Easy isn’t always that easy.
Giveaway: Tell me your favorite romantic suspense setting and I’ll enter you in a drawing for an AnaBanana (anabanancreations.com) mini gift basket. You can pick a romantic theme or creepy with her Zombie Zoaps (my personal favorite).
Pauline released her 13th novel, Relatively Risky, in 2013. She's not superstitious about it, well, maybe a little. So she busted her tush to finish Family Treed: Big Uneasy 1.5, just in case. She’s been committing (fictional) mayhem for a long time. By keeping the mayhem fictional, she avoids the strip search and jail time. When she’s not writing romantic suspense, she’s sending her characters on adventures to other planets. And to alternate realities. It’s pretty fun.
You can find Pauline here:
A quirky artist must unravel her parent's secret past before the mob erases her future. But will the protection of a handsome homicide detective be her only hope of surviving the Big Easy?
Nell Whitby is starting over in New Orleans, getting a publisher for her children’s book, sketching tourists in the French Quarter, and leaving the tragic death of her parents behind. When a handsome detective asks her for a date, her fresh start seems perfect…until a dangerous family secret bubbles up from the past and puts her life in jeopardy.
The oldest of thirteen children, detective Alex Baker has two goals in life: solve murders and avoid anyone under the age of ten. That is, until the day the quirky children's book author foils a carjacking, becomes a target for the mob, and makes his libido sit up and reconsider the whole no-kids thing. If he doesn’t protect her, she’ll be the next body to turn up in his homicide investigation.
As bullets start to fly, Nell can’t resist her sexy bodyguard or ignore her past, and Alex must protect the irresistible kid-magnet who has them both in the crosshairs.
Images: Copyright by WyoJones. All rights reserved. Used with permission.