12 July 2012

Review: Hell or High Water by Joy Castro

In post-Katrina New Orleans, Nola C├ęspedes is hoping for a meatier assignment from her editor at the Times-Picayune. When she gets it, she's both excited and scared. She's been tapped to investigate sex offenders: Has rehabilitation worked? Do these men have any kind of life after prison? And what happened to all those who slipped off the grid in the aftermath of the hurricane?

In the meantime, a tourist has gone missing, and Nola starts to take an almost obsessive interest in the case. Can her research for the newspaper article give her insights into the disappearance?

Joy Castro's Hell or High Water is part mystery, part psychological study of Nola, and part expose of a city in crisis. Of the three aspects of the novel, it's Nola's story that is the most intriguing. Nola's personality is complex, and she clearly has issues. The combination of her work, her secret behavior, and her public persona is eating away at her psyche. I needed to keep reading to find out how or if Nola finds resolution. Although I wasn't as focused on the missing woman as Nola was, I looked for clues and failed to guess who done it.

Castro's descriptions of the city from Nola's point of view are particularly impressive because, according to her bio, she's never lived there, although I believe her husband is a New Orleans native. On the other hand, I felt that Castro may have included too many statistics about sex offenders, or perhaps it was that there were long sections of facts, which pulled me out of the story. This information would have served the novel better if it had been spread out more or revealed in some other form (as part of several conversations, for example).

Fortunately that minor problem did not take away from the novel as a whole. Nola C├ęspedes is the type of character you root for. So I was pleased to read that Joy Castro is writing a follow-up to Hell or High Water. I'd love to know how Nola is doing.

Buy Hell or High Water at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books, July 17, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781250004574
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Daryl 7/12/12, 7:47 AM  

just so happens the Times-Picayune is one of the newspapers owned by the people I work for and with ... this might be a good gift for someone I work with .. as well as a read I would enjoy ... I love NOLA and I dont mean the character .. 'cute' that the author named her main character NOLA ...

Jenn's Bookshelves 7/12/12, 7:49 AM  

My book club was just talking about this book. We're searching for a book to read, set in New Orleans, to give us an excuse to meet at the New Orlean's-style crawfish place nearby!

bermudaonion 7/12/12, 8:48 AM  

New Orleans is a fascinating city, so a peek inside it sounds good to me - even with the gritty facts that are included.

Zibilee 7/12/12, 9:50 AM  

The setting and the main character of this one really intrigue me, and I am sure that like you, I would probably be very interested in Nola and how she rids herself of her inner demons. This was a great review. Just a taste, but both satisfying and enticing. Thanks!

Julie P. 7/12/12, 2:55 PM  

I love books that take place in New Orleans and you now have me curious about the statistics and how they were woven into the story.

Anonymous,  7/12/12, 4:39 PM  

I love a good mystery, especially one with other interesting elements. Thank you for your review.

Anonymous,  7/13/12, 12:25 AM  

NOLA and Nola, huh? I'd be more interested in the city.

Serena 7/13/12, 5:25 AM  

I have never been to NOLA, but this sounds like an interesting story with a complex character. I could perhaps ignore the overuse of sex offender facts.

Chinoiseries 7/14/12, 6:02 AM  

This sounds like a good introduction to (post-Katrina) New Orleans. Mystery combined with a decently fleshed out character = I like :)

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