As you all know, I love it when I get a pre-publication copy of a book so I loved the Laura Childs book before I even opened it. And, as you know, I am not a bit fan of scrap-booking, but have reviewed Laura Childs' books here before and liked them all -- including the Cackleberry club opener (Eggs in Purgatory), tea mysteries, and yes, even previous scrap-booking mysteries (which, it turns out, often include recipes). So, no surprise, I liked this one. I read it in one day, between cleaning the basement, and even with the interruptions, dust and sneezing, loved it. As always, this was set in New Orleans and featured her New Orleans' protagonist Carmela and occasional visits to her shop, Memory Mine. I admit I am not a scrap-booker. It strikes me as an odd hobby - though what they end up making is, on occasion swell. I am more tempted by Carmela's side kick's shop (her name is Ava) which is sort of faux voodoo. Total tourist trash, that's me.
This one, entitled Tragic Magic and not due out until October 2009, made me look up a few things, including haunted houses, Mardi Gras krewes, New Orleans cemeteries, and the claim that scrap-booking is the number one hobby in the U.S. Here's what I learned:
Haunted Houses: While I think of these as a sort of Halloween theater, some people think there are "real" haunted houses. Yep. And some people love haunted house movies, and related things. For a site that takes you loads of "spooky places," check out http://www.hauntedhouses.com/ A similarly named site, http://www.hauntedhouse.com/ is much more halloween-y. But most amazing of all is the idea that there is a professional association organized to support the "haunted house industry." Who knew? And, without spoiling anything about Tragic Magic, I can say why all this matters: there is an effort to create a haunted house at the center of this mystery, including some pretty fun sounding special effects for a sort of hi-tech haunting. Should you care only about haunted New Orleans, click here or, for relevant tours, for example, here.
Mardi Gras krewes: Explorign this raised two questions, both of which I kind of knew answers to, but hey, you can aways learn more. The two questions: What's Mardi Gras? Here's wikipedia's answer. What's a krewe? Here's wikipedia's answer. Put them together and you get. . . . Anyway, for a list of krewes with links to their websites, try here. And yes, there are all women's krewes.
New Orleans cemeteries: Yes, I am a cliche. When I think of New Orleans (besides incredible food and Hurricane Katrina -- not to mention the drinks), I do think of above ground cemeteries. I do. But to learn a bit more about them, I found this site on New Orleans' "Cities of the Dead." Worth a read. Really.
Scrap-booking as a hobby: Somewhere in this murder mystery, the claim is made the scrap-booking is the most popular hobby in the U.S. And I thought it was blogging. Anyway, I thought this was likely nonsense so looked it up. I googled "most popular hobby U.S." and what came up? First. something from wikianswers.com which listed the first 10 in this order: golf, playing a musical instrument, skiing, gardening, swimming, snow boarding and mountain climbing. Odd. No scrap-booking. Here's the site if you do not believe me. When the question is about North America, you do get one addition - coin collecting. Hmmm. But then, I have no idea where these answers actually come from. Another site claims the number one hobby is gardening; it's a gardening site, of course. Based on Harris Polls, google.answer lists all sorts of other things. For that data, click here. Scrap-booking does not appear, though a sort of unspecified catch-all is crafts, which might include scrap-bookers, nd that is 2% of those polled. Not number one, which is reading, at 26%. (By the way, the lowness of this number for reading is a little scary to me.) Anyway, not matter what I did, I could not find confirmation that scrap-booking is the number one. Maybe I made it up that Childs says that. Hmmm.
Urban exploring as a hobby: This shows up in Tragic Magic (no, not a spoiler, trust me) and I had never heard of it. No, it is not the number one hobby, but Childs did not make it up. Here's the wikipedia on it. And here's a web-based network of urban explorers and related information. For a flickr site of urban explorers of New Orleans, click here. And then ask yourself: who knew?
What does all this have to do with Tragic Magic? A reminder, perhaps, that a good mystery writer does her research? Or, that procrastination comes in many forms? Perhaps the latter is more accurate. In the end, though, the point is: I always enjoy a Laura Childs mystery. Hope you do too.