Mortal Sins - Penelope Williamson,  Penn Williamson Set in 1920’s deep in the Louisiana bayou Mortal Sins presents so clear a portrait of the time period it’s almost as if you were there feeling the oppressive heat and smelling all of the scents the bayou has to offer. Unfortunately, one of those scents is death.

Police Officer Damon “Day” Rourke is called to the murder scene of a prominent lawyer who has been mutilated and brutally butchered and the story, for the most part, is told from Rourke’s perspective. Rourke is connected to the case in many and numerous ways and only becomes more entangled as the story unfolds. The major suspect in the murder case is the victim’s glamorous movie star wife, Remy. She’s also the one woman who broke Rourke’s young heart. Rourke thought he’d buried thoughts of Remy deep within him. He even married a woman who is now conveniently (or tragically, depending on your level of cynicism) dead and is raising his young daughter alone. Alas, when he sees Remy again all of the hurt, pain and all consuming love comes crashing back and he’s determined to prove her innocence regardless of the consequences. Things become even more complicated when Rourke learns that the “system” wants to pin the murder on his childhood friend Lucille, a beautiful black woman who was the victim’s reluctant mistress.

Mortal Sins is a book rich in description. Everything from the murders, the racial tensions of the time, to the hot sweltering landscape is painted with exquisite detail. And though the book is extremely descriptive (which is important to me), it fails for me on an emotional level because most, if not all, of the characters are so intensely damaged they verge on unlike-ability (especially drop-dead gorgeous, seriously disturbed Remy). In the end I truly didn’t care what happened to any of them with the exception of the sympathetic Lucille. Rourke may be an outstanding cop but he’s a pretty neglectful father and his unflinching support of creepy Remy verges on obsession and makes him come across as a little creepy too. The characters are interesting, I’ll give them that, but it was difficult to work up any sympathy for the lot of ‘em because they’re all so damaged, disturbed or just plain selfish.

I give this story three stars because the writing is rich and because I enjoyed the attention to detail and atmosphere. I also found the mystery and all of the dirty little secrets intriguing and I didn’t find it difficult to turn the pages. But these things aren’t enough to make me wait with breathless anticipating for the upcoming sequel.