G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 352 pages.
This book encapsulates Roberts’ strengths as a writer: eerie setting, mysterious mansion, endearing characters.
Declan Fitzgerald renounces a glam, power-packed lawyer’s existence for decaying Manet Hall on the edge of New Orleans. Of course, New Orleans with its French Caribbean history is the perfect locale for all things surnaturel. And, in fact, ethnic and class conflict is the basis for the murder that preceded the hauntings.
Declan, in the midst of much sawdust generating and antique purchasing, manages to pursue the lovely but (naturally) elusive Angelina who shares both a resemblance and family connection to one of the ghost victims. It is up to Declan and Angelina to uncover the past tragedy and put its wanderers to rest, all the while eating great Orleans fare, buying more vintage stuff and renovating the decrepit mansion.
Clearly, Roberts loves renovation projects, landscape excavation and buying stuff. And she did a good job of weaving these elements into the novel. Readers can enjoy the fun of rehabbing and the joy of discovery with nary a broken fingernail. The present day characters are engaging, although Angelina’s protestations of cold feet (as in she can’t commit to love) grow a little wearying.
As Nora Roberts renovating-derelict-mansion-haunted-by-mysterious-past narratives go, this is not her finest. I recommend first, Black Rose; and second, Tribute. Both of those novels do a better job of reconciling the yearnings of troubled souls with present day adventure seekers.
The trouble with Midnight Bayou is that the ghost storyline is not resolved. Who were the ghosts exactly? How are they now at rest? The explanations are lackluster. In the end the ghosts just drifted off the page sans denouement like so much phosphorous.