Book Review: Campari Crimson by Traci Andrighetti

Texas transplant Franki Amato has only lived in New Orleans for only a year and a half, but she has already seen some pretty strange things. As a private investigator for Private Chicks, she has had her share of oddball cases and clients, but this one is blood-curdling–a vampire serial killer is stalking The Big Easy. With Halloween only days away, the initial robberies of local blood banks by a caped figure seem more prank-like than serious until a fraternity member of Delta Upsilon Delta is found drained of blood in one of the city’s above-ground crypts with the message “Campari Crimson” scrawled on the wall in his own blood. Franki wants nothing to do with the cryptic case, but when a psychic gives Franki a chilling impromptu reading from a restless spirit who claims someone drained and drank his blood and then warns her the same thing is going to happen to her brother Anthony, Franki fears she will be drawn in anyway. Her fears are confirmed when Josh Santo, a multi-millionaire millennial, hires Franki to find the real culprit after he is accused of the thefts. Josh’s bizarre behavior of dressing up as infamous self-proclaimed NOLA vamp Compte Jacques de Saint Germain-all while living in the house belonging to the bloodsucker-attracts the attention of Detective Wesley Sullivan and Franki thinks Josh may be more guilty than innocent. As the case escalates with yet another killing, Franki faces danger at every turn and finding the killer becomes entirely too personal. The Crescent City on the eve of a blood moon Halloween, what could possibly go wrong?

Real terror meets comedy that forces the reader to hang on with both hands in this fast-paced romp through one of America’s most enigmatic cities. From the sixty-something ex-stripper and nudist Glenda to Pam the hippie with her sweater-wearing Dachshund, this novel is one fun ride. Around every corner, it is sure to surprise like a Gothic cabaret funhouse. The vividly drawn characters are a genuine joy, and the city is celebrated in fine fashion. Anyone who has ever visited and loved this famously irreverent place will appreciate how NOLA becomes a living, breathing entity. Set against the backdrop of voodoo, cities of the dead, and history ripe with vampire lore, New Orleans is intricately woven into every aspect of the plot. One aspect of the city that comes through loud and clear is the idea of “live and let live.” First appearing on a necklace worn by one of the characters, this theme extends throughout the plot from a priest’s “judge not” advice to Raven the vampire’s philosophy of only feeding on willing donors. A feeling of acceptance for all permeates the atmosphere of N’Awlins and thus the novel. “Let the good times roll” is more than a motto; it’s a way of life for the New Orleanians.

What do you get when you cross a meddling nonna with a slacker brother? For Franki, you get family. When Franki is bulldozed by her mother into taking in her grandmother and brother (despite the fact that she has only a one-bedroom apartment), she doesn’t send the two packing back to Texas. Although an unwilling participant in this new “get Anthony a life” scheme, Franki still agrees to take them and even gives up her bed for her nonna, a force of nature in black weighing in at less than a hundred pounds. Nonna’s constant meddling in Franki’s love life, or lack thereof, and her case are both an annoyance and a sweet reminder of an Italian grandmother’s love. Regardless of the problems they cause, both Nonna and Anthony are family, “[a]nd among Italian-Americans, family [is] everything.” It’s an endearing part of the story that will make the reader love Franki Amato even more.

Campari Crimson: Franki Amato Mysteries, Book 4 by Traci Andrighetti won First Place in the CIBA 2018 M&M Awards for Mystery and Mayhem novels.

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.

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