Antoine’s Serves Mystery with Dinner

Dinner at Antoine’s is an endlessly pleasing novel. Since I found it on my mother’s bookshelf back in the ’60s, I’ve read it many times. I  never remember reading it until I’m almost done, so I enjoy it every time.

Orson Foxworth gives a dinner at Antoine’s restaurant to introduce his niece Ruth Avery to his New Orleans friends, including Amélie Lalande, the woman he plans to marry, and her family.

Ruth is immediately drawn to Amelie’s married daughter, Odile, but repelled by the sexually charged relationship between her husband and her sister—as well as by Amélie’s refusal to notice anything wrong.

When Odile is found shot to death the day after her doctor diagnoses her trembling as the first sign of an incurable condition that will paralyze her , there’s no shortage of suspects. Everyone from Odile’s mother to Foxworth appears to have a motive for murder—if it was murder and not suicide.

To the murder mystery Frances Parkinson Keyes adds two love stories, a conspiracy to overthrow a Latin American government, and generous dollops of New Orleans insider tittle-tattle, producing as pleasant an evening’s reading as you could hope to find.

Dinner at Antoine’s
By Frances Parkinson Keyes
Julian Messner 1948
366 pages
Bestseller # 3 for 1948, # 6 for 1949
My grade: B
©2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Few 1949 top novels worth rereading

1949 was not a particularly good year for novels.

The best of the lot is a holdover from the 1948 bestseller list, Dinner at Antoine’s by Frances Parkinson Keyes.

The book, like all Keyes’ work, has a clever but plausible plot developed through memorable characters. And she writes well enough that her novels can be reread with pleasure.

Point of No Return by John P. Marquand is a better novel than Dinner at Antoine’s, but the elements that make it better from a literary standpoint make it less entertaining.

Marquand’s lead character, Charles Gray, is a solid, respectable, reliable banker, as dull as his name. Marquand tells how Charles almost stepped out of character once in his life.

That almost does Marquand in. A few months later, all I remembered was that the writing was wonderful. I couldn’t remember the character or plot at all.

The other books from the 1949 bestseller list are not worth picking up. Fortunately, there is some great reading on the 1939 bestseller list. I’ll begin looking at those novels this coming week.