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posted: 1/22/2014 5:45 AM

New Piper Donovan mystery is the best so far

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  • In Mary Jane Clark's "That Old Black Magic," cake designer-sleuth Piper Donovan fights off a murderer in the Big Easy.

      In Mary Jane Clark's "That Old Black Magic," cake designer-sleuth Piper Donovan fights off a murderer in the Big Easy.
    Associated Press

 
By Waka Tsunoda, Associated Press

Piper Donovan doesn't care about playing detective. She'd rather design wedding cakes and go to auditions for TV and film roles.

To the delight of her fans, however, Piper has another close encounter with evil in "That Old Black Magic," the fourth installment of the series by Mary Jane Clark.

Piper goes to New Orleans to spend a few pleasant days as a guest baker in a renowned pastry establishment. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a murder spree.

As a creepy locale for a mystery, the Big Easy couldn't be better. Cemeteries have aboveground tombs, a bar displays voodoo talismans and the bakery that Piper is visiting sells voodoo doll cookies with chocolate needles in their hearts.

Enhancing the local color are intriguing characters such as a maid and her brother who practice voodoo, a tour guide working on a doctoral dissertation on nursery rhymes, a descendant of a Civil War-era plantation owner and a French-born baking master.

But who's behind the bloodshed in the city's famed French Quarter? The author hides the culprit and motive so well that even the seasoned armchair detective may not guess the truth before Piper comes face to face with the murderer.

Perfectly paced and plotted, "That Old Black Magic" is the most accomplished Piper Donovan mystery so far.

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