Thomas & Mercer, 2014, 366 pages
No one is more familiar with Savannah's dark side than homicide detective and native resident Elise Sandburg. She's been haunted for years by her own mysterious past: She was abandoned as a baby in one of the city's ancient cemeteries, and it’s rumored that she is the illegitimate daughter of an infamous Savannah witch doctor. The local Gullah culture of voodoo and magic is one that few outsiders can understand, least of all Elise’s new partner. Now someone is terrorizing the city, creating real-life zombies by poisoning victims into a conscious paralysis that mimics death. As the chilling case unfolds, Elise is drawn back into the haunted past she's tried so hard to leave behind.
Another murder mystery set in an "exotic" locale, starring a lady detective with baggage. Although in this case, she has an ex-FBI agent partner with even more baggage.
If this was the voiceover for a TV show, it would be:
"She's the love child of a voodoo priestess! He's a former FBI agent with a hooker girlfriend! Together, they fight crime!"
The "exotic" locale is Savannah, Georgia - so, not all that exotic. But it's dripping with "Southern."
Elise Sandburg is alleged to be the daughter of an infamous "root doctor" - a practitioner of voodoo. Accordingly to her family, she was found abandoned in a cemetery as a baby. Adopted by a nice Christian couple that never really warmed up to her, she is now a single mother with a rebellious teenage daughter and a concerned ex-husband.
Her new partner is a "Yankee" who doesn't get along with anyone else in the department. He also, it turns out, has his own tragic, angsty past. The two of them warm up to each other a little over the course of an investigation that involves someone using tetrodotoxin, or "zombie powder," to leave paralyzed and dead bodies around Savannah.
The plot twists through voodoo curses and family secrets, as the case snakes through both Elise and her partner's personal lives. Play Dead is only partly a police procedural - there is mostly personal drama, though some investigative work, and a bit of a thriller ending.
A decent read, and I might read the next one in the series, but it didn't really grab me.
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