New Orleans native Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a kept woman. At age eighteen in the second year of the American Civil War, she is the concubine of a rich New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson. Born a quadroon, Francesca leads a sheltered life of elegant jewels, gowns, lace, and lavish balls—until a bullet shatters her dream world.
An assassin murders “her man” as Francesca stood beside him among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee on April 25, 1862. Bowed by Joachim’s body, rain-soaked and blood-spattered, she vows revenge. Francesca’s passionate desire for retribution drives her into a new life as a sleuth. Becoming a detective to solve a murder mystery is far from the role of women in 1862 New Orleans—especially a woman who perceives herself to be African American but appears to be white.
As Francesca’s investigation begins, the assassin kills two more people and kidnaps Francesca’s best friend, Emily. Driven to recover Emily and avenge Joachim, Francesca’s arduous mental and physical journey takes a circuitous route—far from a concubine’s life of extravagant balls, lace, and leisure. Amid the flowering of spring and early summer in New Orleans, she finds herself mired deep in the perilous abyss between Union, French, and Confederate spies.
Aboard mule-drawn streetcars, Francesca’s gumshoe work takes her through Vieux Carré, Tremé, and many famous city streets in search of the assassin’s motive, means, and opportunity to commit mayhem. In her undercover role, she frequents Café du Monde, Antoine’s Restaurant, and the famous ballroom at the present-day Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Francesca gets help from three historic people of New Orleans; humanitarian Mother Henriette Delille, actress Sarah Butler, and Union spy John Mahan.
Can rookie detective Francesca’s passion, determination, and wit overcome a kidnapper and three-time murderer?