“Hell or High Water” by Joy Castro (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99)
The laborious act of physical rebuilding and personal recovery becomes a scintillating theme for Joy Castro’s compelling mystery fiction debut. The physical rebuilding in “Hell or High Water” is the continued renewal of New Orleans. But equally as important to this engrossing story is the personal growth and rebounding of Nola Cespedes, a young reporter whose chance to prove herself takes her through myriad New Orleans neighborhoods and forces her to take a hard look at her own life.
Nola desperately wants to write news at the Times-Picayune, but this young reporter has no idea about how to compromise or how to show her bosses how capable she can be. Although her editors know she has talent, Nola has alienated her bosses and her co-workers with her attitude. She also is such a novice that she doesn’t recognize a story that could make a career when it is handed to her — a look at the more than 800 sex offenders who have gone “off the grid” since Katrina and are still living in New Orleans.
Set in 2008, “Hell or High Water” vividly illustrates a New Orleans still in chaos from Katrina as it looks at recovery efforts from its residents and from outsiders.
For Castro and Nola, “Hell or High Water” is just the beginning of what should be a long-running series.