Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review: Hell or High Water

By Cindy Roesel

A new summer thriller is out and this one may scare you into sleeping with the lights on.

Nola Cespedes is a young, ambitious New Orleans Times-Picayune news reporter, sick of covering fluff stories about the latest happenings in bars, fashions and galleries. In Joy Castro’s debut novel, HELL OR HIGH WATER, the young Cuban-American reporter catches a break. In post-Katrina New Orleans, she’s thrown into the middle of tracking sex offenders, rapists, perverts who have disappeared off the grid during the hurricane evacuation and expected to produce a front page story.

Nola finds herself in the middle of working the story when a new serial killer shows up on the New Orleans landscape. At the same time, she finds herself haunted by nightmares from her childhood. Flashbacks from dreams and stories her Auntie Helene used to tell her when she was a little girl in Catholic school. But Castro has created a solid group of characters to support Nola as she goes up against the bad guys in what becomes an exciting, fast-paced thriller.

Nola has her Thursday night girls who include Calinda who works in Justice, so she has access to criminal records, and there’s “Princess Fabi” and the soon-to-be married Soline. All these girls think they know Nola, but she masks her upbringing. No one knows Nola grew up dirt poor in the projects something she’s always been ashamed of. Nola’s more intimate with the silver Olympus tape recorder she uses for interviews.

Whether you have or haven’t been to New Orleans, Castro writes with sweeping descriptions and love about the city she has spent some time in that you feel like you're right there. Visually, I was taken on a tour into the good and bad parts every time I delved into the novel and I’m only minimally familiar with the city.

This isn’t your standard fare chick-lit. It’s a pretty gritty murder mystery with some explicit sex that didn’t bother me as a reader, but just know what you’re getting into. I found it a great read and compelling.

I’m not going to get into the plot and subplots, because there are numerous and I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say once you start HELL OR HIGH WATER, it will be hard to put down. It’s a rock and roll ride from start to finish!

You can find Joy Castro on her website and Facebook.

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