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Hell or High Water: A Novel (Nola Céspedes Novels) Hardcover – July 17, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Series: Nola Céspedes Novels (Book 1)
  • 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My book-club selected this book and the majority of the members really liked it. However, I was unimpressed with this story. The book opens with what appears to be a mystery which turns out to be only tangentially related to the story. The author has clearly done her research which she dumps into the book rather than weaving it into the story. At times it felt as though she just wanted the reader to know the nugget so she was going to include it even though it bore no resemblance to the story. The author also seemed to have an agenda and it was very tiresome to read about her feelings about Katrina, pedophilia, the wealthy, etc.

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.
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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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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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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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