Simon explores her adopted home territory using excellent insight and a highly literate style to achieve an authoritative crime novel. Her descriptions of Acadiana resonate with her love of the area that has been her home for over fifty years. A sample of her ability to describe Acadiana in a setting that affects an excellent "lift-off" is featured in the "Prologue" to Blood of the Believers:
"Shaded by a canopy of drooping willow trees, a flat-bottomed bateau plied the shoreline of a narrow bayou leading from the south end of Catahoula Lake. The prow of the wooden boat poked in and out of stands of cypress knees protruding from dark sludge at the water's edge. Sitting on a plank in the stern of the bateau, an old man nudged the tiller to the port and starboard, his gnarled and sun-browned hand controlling their course. An outboard motor purred behind him..."
The story opens when Homicide Detective Ted D'Aquin's ten-year-old son Andre discovers a body while crabbing in Catahoula Lake with his grandfather and proceeds through several homicide investigations, including the murder of a prominent local citizen's eccentric wife who collects dolls
"in varying stages of construction [covering] the surface. Cloth bodies, china heads, and bins of sewing supplies — material, ribbons, and buttons — spilled from the shelves of china cabinets along the walls. The second doll room showed off the finished products, groupings of the most elaborately dressed examples of the collection. Probably fifty little ladies in satin dresses had at hand their imagined needs: miniature tables, chairs, utensils, carriages for their babies..."
At the latter scene, another body of an unidentified black male is discovered, and Simon is off and running, involving the reader in two investigations by Ted D'Aquin and his partner Lorraine LaSalle, with the assistance of District Attorney Dennis Byrne. The novel features a complex plot involving the two criminal cases; in addition, an ongoing search for D'AQuin's wife, a probation officer who disappears while making a routine visit in the field, provides an intriguing side story. Simon is convincing in her ability to achieve a unified story with the cases at hand, including a surprise finale.
When I read Blood of the Believers, I was mesmerized by Simon's well-paced prose and her facility to create the tension that identifies a superb crime novel — I thought of Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, who have given readers first-rate novels that move us through suspense-filled yarns rich with allusion and clever plots. Simon's familiarity with police procedure and the courtroom serve her well in creating the kind of high excitement Rendell and James achieved in their crime novels.
As another adopted daughter of Acadiana, I appreciate Simon's colorful descriptions of the bayou country that equal her predecessor, James Lee Burke — also, her deft touch in creating unusual personalities and locales of Acadiana; e.g., Brother Noah Norbert of the "Church of the Blessed Believers," one of the characters who enhances the intricate plot.
"At the front of the room, a tall white man wearing an electric blue robe with a white cross emblazoned on the front stood on an elevated platform behind a podium. Like the statue of Christ above Rio, he held his arms spread wide...Stage right, a dozen men and woman with a range of skin tones swayed in a syncopated rhythm as they hummed a dirge....a ten-foot-square banner on the wall behind the podium proclaimed 'Let the Believers Testify to His Glory'..."
Because of the numerous characters who move in and out of this tense novel, a List of Characters is included in the preliminary pages of Blood of the Believers, and several maps assist readers in identifying crime scenes. The arresting cover art was done by New Iberia artist, Nan M. Landry.
Hopefully, this brief review will titillate followers of Simon's "Blood Series" to read the latest compelling novel in which Simon is at her suspenseful best. An absorbing and well-written read by an author who has an unusual way of looking at cases, but respects authenticity. Spellbinding storytelling.
Anne L. Simon was born in the East, educated at Wellesley, Yale and Louisiana State University Law Schools, practiced law with her husband Jerry, raised a family, and became the first female judge in the area. Now retired, she travels, enjoys family near and far, takes long walks with her dog, Petey, and writes.
Published by Border Press Books, P.O. Box 3124, Sewanee, TN 37375 and at Amazon.com.