The FBI doesn't get involved in your garden-variety murders, but when a freshman Congressman is found dead in his Lake Charles, Louisiana, home, the G-men come out of the woodwork like the local fire ants. Part of their interest is that whole "servant of the people" thing, but a lot of it's the hints of a hate crime found amidst the evidence. Problem being, of course, who in southwest Louisiana would hate an African-American preacher turned Republican politician who also has a habit of hitting on every beautiful woman he meets – and maybe some of the men? That particular list gets longer every second.
First-time novelist W. Randy Haynes has cooked up a gumbo of suspects in the murder of his fire-and-brimstone preacher turned politico. It seems that just about everyone in Lake Charles wanted a piece of Representative Maurice Jones's hide, from the lengthy string of cuckolded husbands to the local Klansmen to a disgruntled gaggle of scorned supporters. FBI Agent Adam Stephen's undercover assignment to the Jones case, however, apparently had more to do with his sexual ambivalence than with his familiarity with the neighborhood: east Texas, southwest Louisiana; what's the difference, right? As long as you're a bisexual FBI agent, it's all your turf. Stephen's secret probing apparently stirred up something from the local swamps, though, and the hand-scrawled death threat nailed to his motel-room door wasn’t even the first clue. Relying on input from a gay wannabe skinhead at LSU and a wealthy old-money New Orleans widow, Adam – when not busily lusting after whatever gorgeous woman (or man) crosses his path – makes plenty of headway on his investigation. Too much, perhaps…
Like many a first novel, Haynes's Cajun Snuff contains the germ of an interesting tale that's been buried in a tangle of confusing and conflicting plot threads. Stricter adherence to the K.I.S.S. principle might have actually helped the novel, for the plethora of red herrings dragged across the plot ultimately serve as distraction from instead of augmentation to the plot. For suspects, you've got the local redneck dock workers, the crooked casino operators, the husbands of the victim's many conquests, and a bizarre sideshow subplot of young gay men who get their thrills dressing up in SS uniforms. In keeping with some unwritten rule for mystery writers, though, none of them can be the killer – and since this is the FBI instead of CSI, the crucial clue must leap from a stack of mundane paperwork instead of some tiny bit of trace evidence.
As is often the case in self–edited and –published mystery novels, Cajun Snuff ultimately fails to supply sufficient storyline for the reader to follow the author's (and thus the protagonist's) logical and mental gymnastics while solving the case. A reader who can't solve the case from the evidence on hand is a not a happy reader. Hampered by stilted dialogue from one-dimensional characters, plagued by unlikely plot twists (going undercover as a reporter from the Washington Post?), and overrun with stereotypes and clichés, Cajun Snuff is little more than a brief introduction to the geography and some of the customs of the bayou country.