Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Reporter's Quest: Hell or High Water by Joy Castro

Stuck in the life and style section of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Nola Cespedes dreams of becoming a real report covering crime stories. Her break comes when the editor assigns her an investigative story about how sex offenders cope with reintegration into society and having to register. Taking the story plunges Nola into an underworld that becomes increasingly dark and threatening.

On the positive side, the scenes of New Orleans are vivid, full of the life of that city in the post Katrina world. The book is worth reading for a glimpse of the recovering city. Nola is an interesting character. She takes us into her life and makes it come alive. I wish the other characters were a bit more well drawn. They were more like a background for Nola's ruminations.

One of the major negatives was Nola's reporting skills. Her interviews read like an information dump with little interaction between her and the subject. They just didn't feel real. In fact, much of the book felt as if Castro had started out to write an article about sex offenders and turned it into a novel.

I found the ending not quite in line with the opening. When we spend as much time in a character's head as we do with Nola it seems a bit like cheating to have a whole set of motives come out at the end. However, it did wrap the story up in a satisfactory finale.

The book was an interesting read, particularly the glimpses New Orleans life and the way the Latinos see the city. It's worth reading for that aspect. Shifting tenses back and forth to try to give an illusion of immediacy is a bit disconcerting. However, there are many good parts to the book, particularly if you're interested in New Orleans.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.