Book Review: “Sin in the Big Easy” by Elizabeth McCourt

"Sin in the Big Easy" by Elizabeth McCourt, Photo: Kantver/123RF
"Sin in the Big Easy" by Elizabeth McCourt, Photo: Kantver/123RF

New Orleans may be the perfect location for a murder mystery, and that’s where Sin in the Big Easy takes place. The novel’s protagonist, Abby Callahan, is a dysfunctional lawyer attempting to solve the biggest case of her career. She isn’t perfect, but she’s totally capable and is a likable character. Her life seems to mirror that of the victims she’s fighting for, and this becomes something utterly intriguing as the book goes on and we discover the killer’s identity (FYI–you will not guess it). The author of the novel, Elizabeth McCourt, is an alumna of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program and currently lives in Westhampton Beach. McCourt, whose writing is straightforward, allowing the plot to shine, has gotten off to a great start in the first volume of the Abby Callahan Mysteries series.

The story begins with Abby’s morning run in Audubon Park in New Orleans. The vivid descriptions of the setting bring you into the city and sets the plot in motion. New Orleans functions almost as another character in the story, the backdrop adding to the suspense as Abby gets closer to the killer. Abby finds Darcy on the ground in the park, clearly injured. Though this part of the story is essential for the rest, it feels too coincidental that Abby would happen to run into a rape victim on her run through the park. It makes more sense later in the book, as we learn more about the killer and the connection to Abby, but in the moment this first scene feels unbelievable and that might make it difficult for a reader to become invested in the story.

McCourt clearly did her research for this novel. The court scenes are a favorite, and the legal jargon adds to the credibility of the narrator and main character. A reader will appreciate the way McCourt discusses the obstacles that face rape victims in the beginning pages, as well as the biases against women in a male-dominated field such as law. Darcy does not think anyone will believe her because of her lifestyle. Abby recognizes these fears as we soon learn she has been in a similar situation, only adding to the tension as the case, and the novel, continues.

There’s a lot more to this story than just a murder and rape investigation. Not long into the novel, Abby is told to come home to Long Island because her father has committed suicide. This is where Abby’s character development truly starts. She becomes easier to empathize with, and someone whose choices are better understood by the reader. But there are also many other characters introduced here and though the secondary characters all add something to Abby’s story, they lack development.

The real magic of Sin in  the Big Easy is in discovering the identity the killer. At first, you’re shocked. But then it starts to make sense. McCourt left clues along the way for readers to go back and wonder how they missed them. It’s not predictable; this novel will keep you guessing and searching for answers.

McCourt’s novel is full of twists and turns. You’ll be intrigued by the case and everything that surrounds it, particularly the chaos of Abby’s personal life. And as Sin in the Big Easy is only Volume 1 of the series, there’s more to come from McCourt and Abby Callahan.

Sin in the Big Easy is available now at your local bookstore.

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