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Hell or High Water: A Novel Hardcover – July 17, 2012


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Hell or High Water: A Novel + Nearer Home: A Novel (Nola Cespedes Mystery) + The Truth Book: A Memoir
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250004578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250004574
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Castro’s first mystery is fierce and intense, with both harrowing depictions of New Orleans after Katrina and psychological mayhem for its troubled heroine, who crawls under your skin and lingers there long after you’ve finished reading." --Kirkus Reviews

“Exquisite New Orleans background, intriguing newsroom politics and atmosphere, a flawed but plucky heroine, and skillfully paced suspense makes this a ‘stay up way past your bedtime’ read.” –Booklist (starred)

"Readers who enjoy psychological thrillers will find this a fascinating look into an intriguing city. Nola is a feisty character..." --Library Journal

“A terrific mystery, but Hell or High Water is more than just a mystery; it’s a heartfelt examination of a second America—poor but undaunted—that was swept under the rug but refuses to stay there . . . I can’t wait to see what Joy Castro does next.” —Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Mystic River

"Hell or High Water is a tightly written thriller. Nola's first-person perspective and her witty, often cutting dialogue will make the reader believe in the character and really care for her and what happens to her. . . . Like the city for which she was named, Nola is damaged yet unbeaten. . . . an exciting, incisive novel." --El Paso Times

"Hell or High Water is so thick and rich with authentic New Orleans details that you’ll be wiping sweat off your brow and smelling the crawfish étouffée. Joy Castro has crafted a complex, conflicted, and hauntingly real heroine with Nola Céspedes. Shackled to her past and to New Orleans, Castro’s Nola reminded me of Pat Conroy’s Tom Wingo and the Outer Banks in Prince of Tides." --Alex Kava, New York Times bestselling author of The Maggie O’Dell series, Whitewash and One False Move

“In the tradition of P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Lucha Corpi, Joy Castro shows how mystery can be much more than the unraveling of crimes concealed. An irresistible and compelling novel.” —Lorraine M. López, author of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories

About the Author

JOY CASTRO teaches literature, creative writing, and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Her 2005 memoir, The Truth Book, was elected an ABA Book Sense Notable Book.

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Customer Reviews

The reader will want to know how the story turns out, and keep turning the pages!
Writer's Corner
When we spend as much time in a character's head as we do with Nola it seems a bit like cheating to have a whole set of motives come out at the end.
Nancy Famolari
The story is very believable and written in such a way that the reader can visualize the setting and empathize with the main character.
Renate Scheelar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James B. Robinson on July 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm not much for writing reviews of fiction; I really prefer to know as little as possible about a book or a movie in advance so I rely on my friends to recommend things. So, I'll be extremely general here in my enthusiasms. I prefer to like protagonists and I loved Nola. I prefer not to see blatant errors of fact and I saw none. I prefer enough complexity, but not too much and characters to caricature. Done and done. Having read this, I'll probably read everything Castro writes and be mildly annoyed that she is not writing faster (along with Hiaasen, Childs, Banks, Palahniuk, Crais, Gaiman, Harkaway, etc.)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Smokey VINE VOICE on June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Twenty-seven year old Times-Picayune entertainment reporter, Nola Céspedes, wants to write real news articles, not announcements of club meetings. Bylines on feature stories will get Nola where she wants to be: New York. In the Big Apple, she'll write for The New York Times.

Nola certainly has the talent to achieve her dreams. If it weren't for her loud mouth and her uncooperative attitude, she might get there more quickly. Both of these qualities almost blow her chance to prove herself when the paper's editor gives her the assignment of writing an article on the post-Katrina sex registry. Nola barely manages to control her trash talk and accepts the assignment. It's a scary one because she'll be interviewing sex offenders, some of whom will have gone off the grid. But Nola wonders if the story might be connected to the murders of two young women and the recent disappearance of third.

In "Hell or High Water", author Joy Castro has created a lively, interesting character in Nola, who dresses sexy, can drink and one-night-stand her way through life with the best of her fictional, male counterparts, and doesn't always think things through before she acts. She's also good to her mother.

Castro provides a vivid picture of New Orleans after Katrina, the way the small Latino population (Nola's mother is from Cuba) is viewed, and the gap between the haves and have-nots. A lot of information about the status and treatment of sex offenders is included, as well as a look at how convicted sex offenders live after being released from prison.

The solution to the recent murders of young women seems to happen almost by accident, but the surprising ending, and the insights Nola gains about herself and her past are very well done.

Three and a three-fourth stars.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story's newspaper reporter main character, Nola Cespedes, is interestingly put together, and she'd be worth revisiting if this book turned into a series.

The book was blurbed by Dennis Lehane, and while author Joy Castro is working hard to fit into Lehane's grim and dingy style, the plot doesn't live up to it. There's a lot going on, probably too much, and it never feels connected in a way where it honestly ties together.

It's not really a mystery - Cespedes is tracking a story about sex offenders in the post-Katrina years in New Orleans. She's not trying to solve the crime (a pair of kidnappings) herself, so the reader doesn't have clues to try and put together. A bunch of suspicious characters abound, but it's not a who-dun-it. That's not a bad thing, but if you're expecting a mystery you can solve, this isn't it.

My biggest problem is that much of Cespedes reporting interviews come across unrealistically. I've been a reporter, and it's just not as easy to gain trust - especially with criminal subjects - as she presents here. I understand that they needed to serve as exposition, but these interview sections needed more realistic setup. Even if she'd flat-out threatened the people (which would have been believable), that could have worked.

While Cespedes is fully developed, most of the supporting characters are pretty thin. I wouldn't say they are cliched, but their personalities are one-dimensional. They serve exactly the point of the plot that they are meant to, and nothing else.

The wrap-up, while satisfying, is just too neat. Because she isn't giving clues or much foreshadowing, the conclusion comes out of nowhere.

It's an okay book, and it could def. improve with another book or two in a series. As a one-off story, though, it doesn't leave much impact; hopefully Nola Cespedes gets another shot.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jaylia3 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nola Céspedes wants a real story to work on, not the society fluff that her editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayunens keeps giving her. Problem is she sometimes can't rein her temper in. Even when handed a great story, a feature about sex offenders now off the grid because of all the dislocations after Hurricane Katrina, Nola initially back talks and tells her boss it's not real news. She changes her mind and throughout the rest of the book she is putting together her first serious piece of journalism--interviewing offenders, victims, and professionals to create a wide-ranging article she hopes will be her ticket out. Nola wants a better beat, preferably with a newspaper like the New York Times.

In spite of her occasional temper, Nola is a warm and very appealing first person narrator with a unique perspective on the city she both loves and hates. Nola's mother escaped Cuba and followed a man from Miami to New Orleans, only to have him leave when she got pregnant. New Orleans doesn't have much of a Cuban American community and being poor Nola grew up in its projects so she started life on the fringes of society. With her job at the paper Nola can now afford to live in a nicer part of the city, but she often can't relate to the lives of her wealthy girlfriends and, ironically considering the story she is writing, she engages in some very risky sexual activity. Though she's a straight talker, Nola still has secrets.

Lots of information about New Orleans and Sex Crimes is woven almost (but not quite) seamlessly into the narrative, and the lively colors, flavors and sounds of New Orleans are so vividly described the city practically vibrates to life on the page. The story is fascinating and suspenseful, with a twist at the end I didn't see coming. A couldn't put it down book.
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