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Maggie Crozat is back home in bayou country during the most magical time of the year. In Pelican, Louisiana, Christmastime is a season of giant bonfires on the levee, zydeco carols, and pots of gumbo. Except, this year, the Grinch has come to stay at the family-run Crozat Plantation B&B. When he floods travel websites with vicious reviews, Maggie thinks she’s identified him as rival businessman Donald Baxter. That is, until he’s found stabbed to death at Maggie’s workplace. And Maggie and her loved ones become top suspects.
The Crozats quickly establish alibis, but Maggie’s boyfriend, Detective Bo Durand, remains under suspicion. With Bo sidelined during the investigation, Maggie finds herself forced to work with an unlikely ally: longtime family enemy Rufus Durand. Her sleuthing uncovers more suspects than drummers drumming, and lands her in the crosshairs of the murderer.
The sleigh bells are jingling, and the clock is ticking for Maggie and Rufus, who must catch the killer or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noël in A Cajun Christmas Killing, the recipe-stuffed third installment of USA Today bestselling author Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country mysteries.
This Author’s Mysterious Christmas Choice
In my new book, A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING, I worked hard to capture the holiday season. Crozat Plantation B&B is festooned with colorful decorations, as is the tiny town of Pelican, Louisiana, where my Cajun Country Mystery series takes place. My protagonist Maggie Crozat and her boyfriend, detective Bo Durand, go to New Orleans to find clues to a recent murder, and I knocked myself out describing how decked out the Crescent City gets around Christmastime. From the French Quarter balcony sporting lights that spell “Merry Christmas, Y’all,” to the wreaths on the streetcars, it’s all there. But I made one choice that mystified this mystery author – the Crozat family doesn’t decorate their Christmas tree until Christmas Eve.
You’re probably asking yourself, wait a minute, Ellen, you’re the author. You have total control over your own story! But sometimes you don’t. Sometimes a story or character propels you into a choice that you can’t explain but also can’t fight against. I’d heard of families that waited until Christmas Eve to decorate their trees but honestly, I’ve never understood why. Even as a kid, I made sure our family put up ours weeks before Christmas. Walking by the beautifully decorated tree helped fuel the anticipation of Christmas morning. Plus, we were so busy Christmas Eve. There was a huge family meal to prepare, services to attend… who could even think of spending the hours required to get the tree just right? So why on earth do the Crozats wait, especially when I worked so hard to paint a lovely picture of Cajun Country during the holidays?
I’ve been mulling this over, and I think I finally solved my own mystery. Decorating the tree on Christmas Eve fits structurally with the timeline of the book. It’s a counterpoint to the tension as we close in on a murderer on the lam. The Crozats also wait because a tree decorated on Christmas Eve will be fresh through the Epiphany, January 6th, and many in Louisiana celebrate Twelfth Night. If you put up a tree in mid-December like I do, it’s going to shed a lot of needles by then, if not all of them. Maggie Crozat also invites guests who are staying with them over the holiday to help decorate the tree. This makes the B&B visitors feel part of the family and excited about celebrating Christmas with them.
I didn’t know any of this when I wrote A Cajun Christmas Killing. But I know it now, and am so glad I trusted my subconscious to guide me.
About the Author
Body on the Bayou, the second in Ellen’s Cajun Country Mystery series, won the Left Coast Crime Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Her debut book in the series, Plantation Shudders, made the USA Today Bestsellers list, and was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Ellen is also a recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant from the Malice Domestic Convention. Her TV credits include Wings, Still Standing, and Just Shoot Me, as well as network and cable pilots. As a journalist, she’s written over 200 magazine articles for national publications. Her plays, published by Dramatists Play Service, include the popular Graceland and Asleep on the Wind. A native New Yorker and graduate of Tulane University, Ellen lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, daughter, and the family’s spoiled rescue dogs.