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Hell or High Water: A Novel (Nola Céspedes Novels) Hardcover – July 17, 2012
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“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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The main character was very difficult to like. Many of the decisions she made seemed unlikely and unrealistic and seemed purposefully reckless to make the story more interesting. I hated her whining and envy of all the people around her. I found all the characters to be very flat, undeveloped and uni-dimentional.
The story drags on and then suddenly the author tries to wrap things up too quickly towards the end. Everything ends up way too neatly to be realistic. It would have been a much better book if she had gotten rid some of the needless history or descriptions of food and spent some time working on developing a plot or her characters.
If I could have selected 1.5 stars as a choice I would have.
Ms Castro skillfully uses New Orleans as a backdrop for the suspenseful twists and turns of a beautifully crafted plot; Nola Cespedes is a young, ambitious reporter for the Times Picayune newspaper, and the paper's editor offers her a chance to escape the agony (for her) of writing "fluff" pieces for the paper's culture section by assigning her an investigative crime story about thousands of sex offenders who "went off the grid" after their records were destroyed by Katrina. Nola jumps at the opportunity, and begins a long and painful journey that takes her to dark places that eventually touch her very soul. Nola was born and raised in the Upper Ninth Ward, an area of New Orleans that came under the spotlight post-Katrina due to the total destruction of the area and lack of timely state and federal aid, perhaps as a result of the fact that this section of New Orleans was synonymous with extreme crime and poverty. Nola is the only child of a Cuban émigré (careful readers will realize that she is named for her city), and she fights hard to leave her life of poverty behind her by attending school in an affluent section of the city, and then studying journalism at Tulane University. Her early years are behind her at the start of the novel, however Nola remains conflicted between the life she left behind and the middle class life she has created for herself. This emotional conflict is beautifully written into the story line, and Ms Castro brings the reader along with Nola's growing self awareness in ways that are both subtle yet ultimately shocking as the story nears its climax.
Hell or High Water is a wonderful page-turner, and I really hope that Ms Castro brings Nola back in a sequel to this stunning tale of crime and intrigue in a city that is known for both.