New Orleans is a unique place, unlike any other city in America, and crime fiction set in “The Big Easy” can’t help but include the atmospheric flair that makes the city so endlessly fascinating. Here are six crime fiction books that capture the energy of the city of New Orleans.
Black Cherry Blues is an Edgar Award-winning thriller from author James Lee Burke. Dave Robicheaux is a former Louisiana homicide cop looking to start a new life for himself after his wife was murdered. He escapes to the mountains of Montana to open up a fishing shop and care for his adopted daughter, Alafair. But Robicheaux’s past will not let him run away so easily. When two Native American activists suddenly go missing, the former cop finds himself wrapped up in the dark world of the Mafia, all while someone from his past comes back to haunt him—the person responsible for his wife’s murder is now after Alafair.
A Morning for Flamingos is another edge-of-your-seat thriller by James Lee Burke, starring Dave Robicheaux. Set after the events of Black Cherry Blues, this novel sees Robicheaux return to New Orleans, the city where he lost his wife. But when an old friend makes a surprise appearance at Robicheaux’s fish-and-tackle business, suddenly the ex-cop finds himself thrust back into a world of Mafia crimes and crooked federal agents.
In French Silk, District Attorney Robert Cassidy is working on an interesting and frustrating case. Claire Laurent is the founder of French Silk, a successful high-end lingerie company. When a TV evangelist attacks French Silk's erotic sleepwear as sinful and then is later found dead, Claire becomes the prime suspect. Robert Cassidy wants to get to the truth of the case, but Claire is just as mysterious as the city of New Orleans itself. As much as Claire protests her innocence, she will never be cleared of charges unless she reveals a shocking secret she’s sworn to never tell.
A Free Man of Color is the first novel in the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly. Set in 1833 during Mardi Gras, Creole physician and music teacher Benjamin January is playing piano at the Salle d'Orleans when a terrible murder interrupts the festivities. While authorities look into the crime, Ben starts his own investigation. As a free man of color, however, it isn’t long before Ben himself becomes a suspect.
Moth by James Sallis follows the story of Lew Griffin, a former detective who has now retreated to a quiet life of writing fiction in the New Orleans Garden District. But after the death of a close friend, Lew hits the streets to hunt down the runaway daughter he never knew his friend had.
Related: The First Detective Story
Secrets of Newberry is set in Louisiana (not New Orleans, but still worth the read!) in the 1950s and follows the story of two men: Hampton Bynote and Ivory “Bones” Arcineaux. Hampton and Bones bond over a shared life of crime, but will that bond remain strong when murder, deception, and revenge threaten to tear them apart?
What to Read Next
Emily Martin has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. She’s a contributing editor at Book Riot and blogs/podcasts at Book Squad Goals.