MARDI GRAS MURDER, the fourth book in the Cajun Country Mystery series by Ellen Byron, contains an intriguing look at small town Mardi Gras celebrations while providing a humorous cozy mystery read! While I’ve attended the wild festivities of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (in my much younger days) Ms. Bryon paints a delightful and family-oriented picture of how the bayou celebrates the Carnival. Protagonist, Maggie Crozat, is roped into judging the town’s Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen Contest, a contest she has always despised. Making matters worse, the head judge is pretentious and wants his favorite candidate to win the crown. When the judge is murdered practically in front of her, Maggie feels pressure to get involved and help solve the case. Except her boyfriend, Detective Bo Durand, is investigating and doesn’t want her involved. There is new tension between the couple and I wanted to turn the pages faster so I could find how it turns out. The pace of the mystery is lively and pulled me deeper into the story with each passing chapter.
As Maggie digs into the judge’s life, she becomes more aware of his involvement in the area’s historical society. I was fascinated by the author’s inclusion of the history of the area, especially the Orphan Train. This train brought numerous orphans into Louisiana in the early 1900’s for families to raise when no one else would take them. Even though some history is included, the writing is vivid and descriptive, providing substance to the story instead of dragging it away from the plot. Adding to the sense of festivities is Maggie’s dad’s involvement in the town’s annual gumbo competition. His attachment to and reverence of his special gumbo pot and the lengths he goes to creating Louisiana’s official state cuisine adds lightheartedness and humor. I adore Maggie’s family. They are close-knit yet at times there are some arguments and irritation which makes them believable because of the author’s great character development.
Maggie and her family own and operate the Crozat Plantation Bed & Breakfast. Maggie’s mother, Ninette is the cook for both family and guests, serving up mouthwatering dishes and desserts every day. One of the traditional desserts served during Mari Gras is King Cake. Maggie’s Grandmere came up with a recipe for Easy-Peasy King (Bundt) Cake instead of following Ninette’s labor intensive traditional recipe. While I’m not opposed to spending time in the kitchen, sometimes it’s wonderful having a convenient and easy recipe that looks and tastes like it was made 100% from scratch… and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. Canned cinnamon rolls layered into a bundt pan and then slathered with a brown sugar and cinnamon mixture before baking created a lovely cake, especially after the doctored icing was drizzled on. A few sprinkles of the traditional purple (for justice), gold (for power), and green (for faith) sugar completed the look before my guests were wowed by both the appearance and taste. I won’t be relegating Easy-Peasy King (Bundt) Cake to Mardi Gras only… it will definitely become a fixture anytime of the year I serve brunch!
Southern charm meets the dark mystery of the bayou as a hundred-year flood, a malicious murder, and a most unusual Mardi Gras converge at the Crozat Plantation B&B.
It’s Mardi Gras season on the bayou, which means parades, pageantry, and gumbo galore. But when a flood upends life in the tiny town of Pelican, Louisiana―and deposits a body of a stranger behind the Crozat Plantation B&B―the celebration takes a decidedly dark turn. The citizens of Pelican are ready to Laissez les bon temps rouler―but there’s beaucoup bad blood on hand this Mardi Gras.
Maggie Crozat is determined to give the stranger a name and find out why he was murdered. The post-flood recovery has delayed the opening of a controversial exhibit about the little-known Louisiana Orphan Train. And when a judge for the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen pageant is shot, Maggie’s convinced the murder is connected to the body on the bayou. Does someone covet the pageant queen crown enough to kill for it? Could the deaths be related to the Orphan Train, which delivered its last charges to Louisiana in 1929? The leads are thin on this Fat Tuesday―and until the killer is unmasked, no one in Pelican is safe.
A special thanks to Ellen Byron for providing a winner with a hardcover copy of MARDI GRAS MURDER. Contest ends Sunday, October 14, 2018 at 11:59 pm PST and is limited to U.S. residents only. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below to enter. The winner will be announced on this page and on Cinnamon & Sugar’s Facebook page, as well as notified by email (so check your spam folder!)
The Crozats generally leave the baking to Ninette or order delicious treats from Fais Dough Dough. But if Maggie's called upon to make a King Cake, she follows Gran's advice and takes a tasty shortcut, using cinnamon roll dough. Gran's super-easy King Cake recipe will have all your friends thinking you made one from scratch. Tradition dictates whoever gets the baby in their slice of King Cake has to provide the cake for the following year's Mardi Gras celebration.
- 2 17.5 ounce cans jumbo cinnamon rolls (reserve icing packets)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 3 ounces whipped cream cheese
- Both frosting packets from cinnamon roll cans
- A little milk to thin the frosting
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Purple-, green-, and yellow-colored sugar
- 1 tiny plastic baby
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pinch of salt.
Layer the cinnamon rolls, one by one, in the bottom of a Bundt pan so they overlap. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the top, pressing it into the uncooked buns gently with the back of a spoon or spatula.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until cinnamon rolls are done. Let cool. When the cake is completely cooled, poke the plastic baby inside it, then flip the cake over onto a plate or cake plate.
Blend the cream cheese, icing packets, vanilla and milk together. Frost the cake.
Once the cake is frosted, sprinkle it with alternating rows of purple-, green-, and yellow-colored sugar.
Serves 8 - 16, depending on how big you cut the slices.
Alert guests to the baby so it doesn't become a choking hazard!
If you're interested in an authentic King Cake, bakeries around Louisiana will ship them during the weeks prior to Mardi Gras.
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I was provided an advance copy with the hopes I would review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.