Antoine's provides the backdrop for the novel as it is there that Orson Foxworth hosts a party to introduce his niece, Ruth, to his friends. Keyes begins to set the stage for the novel introducing a host of characters at the dinner party and the hours after: Odilie St. Amant; her husband Léonce; her sister Caresse who is about to begin an affair with Léonce; her mother, Amélie; Sabin Duplessis. an old friend of Odilie with whom she was once in love and who was presumed lost in World War II; Dr. Perrault, who has been the family doctor and who delivers the news to Odilie that she is suffering from a terminal nervous disorder that sounds very much like Parkinson's disease; and the maid who has taken care of Odilie since she was an infant. At the height of the dinner, Odilie spills wine on a beautiful satin dress. She refuses to admit to having a shaking hand and does not leave the party until they all leave to go dancing. In less than 30 hours she will be found dead in her bedroom with a gun, given to her by Sabin, by her side. Was it murder or suicide? Police detective "Toes" Murphy asserts that he knows what happened, but does not divulge his theory until all the characters have had a chance to either prove or disprove alibis and motives. The solution will more than likely surprise all readers.
The novel is more than a murder mystery. It is a commentary on the mores of the time, the standing of women in Southern society, and the ways of life of the upper crust society. There is conveyed a sense of entitlement, but also of elegance. The description of Metairie Cemetery revealed what it was like to have a final resting place on "millionaire's row." Although Dinner at Antoine's is not considered one of Keyes' finest novels, it was of the ilk of an Agatha Christie murder tome - a large cast of characters and a detective who was smarter than any of the suspects. A satisfying read, even on the second go-round.
Antoine's was the elegant place to dine whether seated in the main dining room
or one of the private ones.