Hell or High Water book coverMemoirist Joy Castro has written a terrific debut novel that blends crime investigation with personal catharsis in post-Katrina New Orleans. Nola Céspedes, a young Times-Picayune reporter trying to write her way out of the lifestyle-section ghetto, dresses loud and talks louder. She has no problem calling everybody else on their shit, but when it comes to the increasingly obvious monkeys on her own back, she’s got a mile-wide blind spot. Nola jumps at the chance when her editor offers her a feature assignment from the city desk, following up on sex offenders who’ve been released from prison. When she starts to make connections between her interviewees and a broad-daylight kidnapping currently in the headlines, Nola begins making discoveries far beyond the scope of the assignment. I really enjoyed Nola’s fresh voice, her point of view on the “real” New Orleans, and her musings on the lingering effects of the violation of a person or of a city. In the end, Nola’s confrontation of her personal demons upstages the crime-solving aspect of the story; for readers who — like me — have no problem with this kind of dynamic, I highly recommend Hell or High Water.

[NB: I read this book as a digital ARC, received free of charge from NetGalley in advance of the publication date.]