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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So the second time is not the charm with this book. In fact, I was more turned off by this book this time then I was the first time. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Cheryl Koch
I almost never buy books, as I read/listen to so many I have to use library facilities or I would be completely broke. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Sally
Captivated me. Completely. Rare to find a protagonist so complex and infuriating, but engaging and sympathetic at the same time. Read morePublished 22 months ago by flikwrtr
Joy Castro's protagonist Nola Cespedes is one crazy flawed woman. But, she's so relatable. Castro's knowledge of the city of New Orleans is epic! This was a great read. Read morePublished on January 29, 2014 by Wyn Andrews
Castro writes beautifully as we come to care about the characters and empathize with them. The description of New Orleans and its culture is spot-on and I longed to take the... Read morePublished on September 27, 2013 by Julie25TX
I am very surprised at how poorly written this book is. Worse than a generic mystery novel. That is not to say that I think the author is without talent--I think she could... Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by msjs
Emotionally satisfying. Given the history of the writer this is a very riveting book. Up until the very end I was not sure how she would end this work. Read morePublished on August 7, 2013 by Tony Smith
I LOVED this book. That is not to say that it was an easy read, by any means. Nola is a deeply flawed character that seems to spiral downward toward certain trouble. Read morePublished on May 27, 2013 by Victoria Allman