My review of Joy Castro's HELL OR HIGH WATER appeared last month in the Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is being reprinted here with their permission. You can sign up to receive Shelf Awareness at the bottom of the blog. They're presently hosting a contest to win Spencer Quinn next Chet and Bernie mystery, so you may want to sign up in time for that. People who already receive SA are eligible for the contest too! Now on to the review.
Despite her name, Nola Céspedes doesn’t share the fondness for New Orleans that her friends and family do. Her goal is to land a job with the New York Times and never look back. So when her boss drops a feature story about Megan’s Law and convicted sexual offenders in her lap, she pushes her safety apprehensions aside in hopes the story will move her in the direction of her goal.
Meanwhile someone is snatching women off the streets of New Orleans in broad daylight. The monster is raping, murdering and leaving the women in waterways to ultimately wash ashore. As Nola digs in the dirt of her subjects’ crimes, she becomes obsessed with the kidnappings and her fixation may put an end to all of her goals.
Joy Castro’s fiction debut is a captivating story that parallels the rape of a woman to that of New Orleans itself: the destruction, the despair, the death. And the imagery of water, with the conflicting powers to maintain life as well as to annihilate it, weaves its way throughout the tale.
Told from the perspective of Nola, the narrative alternates between present tense and past tense as she exposes previous events little by little, helping to maintain a consistently suspenseful read. At times the focus on detail slows the plot, but readers may pardon this minor transgression as Castro vividly depicts New Orleans in all her splendor and horror.
Hell or High Water is a thought-provoking thriller. It is also an odyssey of recovery and a case study in resilience that will echo in the minds of readers well after the mystery has been unveiled.
Hell or High Water is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-125000457) from Thomas Dunne Books and is available on audio, narrated by Roxanne Hernandez, from Dreamscape Media (ISBN: 978-1611208894)