When we left Charlotte Reade last summer, she was helping Sassy's adopted twin daughters find their birth mother.

Sassy was the woman who helped raise Charlotte's mom, and she died in 2009, in the same week that Charlotte was making her red carpet splash in Hollywood.

Now it's only a few months later in 2010, and in the afterglow of the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl win, Charlotte finds herself in the midst of another mystery, this time helping real-life actor Bryan Batt track down a stalker.

Charlotte isn't a true detective. She's a successful actress, much like her creator Laura Cayouette, author of the Charlotte Reade Mystery series.

Cayouette introduced readers to Charlotte last spring in "The Secret of the Other Mother," the first of the five-book series. Now the second, "The Hidden Huntsman," is hitting bookstore shelves in time for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

This is significant, as part of the story takes place at that festival, whose Book Tent will host Cayouette in a book signing at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 6.

And though Batt is a real-life actor, probably best-known for his role as Sal Romano in AMC's "Mad Men," he's placed in a fictional situation in Cayouette's book.

Batt agreed to let Cayouette use his persona before she started writing the book.

"And I think he's going to be pleased," she says. "I used real-life New Orleans personalities in 'The Secret of the Other Mother,' and they were always in a good light. The only difference is, they didn't play major roles in the story. Bryan does."

The book also couldn't have been written without Batt's Magazine Street antiques shop, Hazelnut.

"The shop lends itself to the story, because it's where Charlotte can find a clue to her ongoing family mystery in the books," she says. "So, I'm so honored that Bryan trusted me."

Like Charlotte, Cayouette moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans in 2009.

Film director Quentin Tarantino encouraged Cayouette to write her New Orleans mystery series. She'd told Tarantino about her idea while working in his 2004 film, "Kill Bill Vol.2," in which she played Rocket. She later took on the role of Leonardo DiCaprio's sister, Laura Lee Candie-Fitzwilly, in Tarantino's 2012 "Django Unchained," where the subject came up again.

New Orleans native Batt has made his own name in Hollywood. He and Cayouette knew each other, had even auditioned for a film together but still have yet to work together on the big screen.

Cayouette has remedied that in her fiction, which begins with Charlotte's settling into her New Orleans life as she celebrates the ongoing party from the Saints' world champion title to Mardi Gras to the French Quarter Fest and finally the Mardi Gras Indians' Super Sunday.

Cayouette also includes YouTube and Pinterest addresses in her book, linking readers with a playlist of the songs she mentions. along with the people and places.

"A picture is worth 1,000 words," she says. "And as much as I try to show the readers or make them hear the music, there's nothing like the real picture and songs."

The film industry is still strong at this time in Louisiana's Hollywood South, and Charlotte lands a part in a film opposite Batt. That's when they stumble upon the stalker, who Charlotte helps Batt track down. While researching her role, Charlotte discovers clues to her own family mystery, as well as the seemingly paranormal chandelier in her home that has a habit of moving on its own.

Adding to the chain of events is the April 24, 2010, BP oil spill in the Gulf and the disappearance of a production assistant as everyone is preparing for Jazz Fest.

"The last book had the Super Bowl, and this one has the oil spill," Cayouette says. "I want to set each story against the backdrop of a major event."

Cayouette also lifts the veil off the movie industry, showing readers what goes on behind the scenes. She plans out her stories on index cards and doesn't start writing until she knows she has a complete and coherent story.

The series is self-published, a careful decision made by Cayouette before diving into the books. She wanted total control over her work, but she also realized that total control also meant total responsibility.

"First of all, you have to be a good writer," she says. "And you have to be a good editor and be willing to cut and willing to write for the reader, not for yourself. You also should be familiar with marketing yourself, and it's good to have other skills. I have graphic design skills, so I didn't have to pay anyone to design my cover."

Cayouette also has web-building skills, and she's a savvy social media marketer.

"A lady offered to proofread my manuscript, and I paid her, but I'm also on a budget," she says. "The more I know how to do, the better."

Cayouette is now mapping out the third Charlotte Reade installment on index cards, and maybe she'll set a writing deadline for Christmas.


It all depends on Charlotte Reade. 

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.