An artful, gritty love story, eulogy, and survivor narrative for the city of New Orleans post-Katrina.

THE LOWER QUARTER

A man arrives in post-Katrina New Orleans, looking to solve the mystery of a missing painting and a related murder. What he finds is nothing less than love, sacrifice, survival, genius, depravity, and hope.

The talented Blackwell (An Unfinished Score, 2010, etc.) weaves an elaborate web for her four major characters. Elizam, recently released from prison for theft, is hired to find a stolen Belgian masterpiece after two paintings by the same artist are discovered in a hotel room beside a dead man. His investigation quickly leads him to Johanna, a beautiful art restorer with a painful past and a debt owed to Clay, a New Orleans blue blood with creative sexual tastes. Marion, an artist/bartender, begins a relationship with Clay and hires Johanna to restore some of her art, damaged by the recent hurricane. The novel is smoothly and expertly plotted and the characters layered, but at the core lies the city itself: seething, wounded, garish, and unstoppable. Blackwell includes the reader in New Orleans’ sordid, beautiful past and present with sentences such as “This nourished an understanding that a history can be adopted, that the history of the city could be her history and that she could become part of its history, regardless of where she’d been born or how recently she’d arrived. After all, that was what New Orleans had always been: a receiver of outsiders and immigrants, a blender, a granter of new identities, a place where you could disappear and then resurface under new terms.” In this novel, Blackwell has created a vibrant amalgamation of mystery, classic noir, erotica, and ekphrasis. The novel’s greatest strength is how it imbues both the loftiest and the seediest moments with grandeur and pathos without being overwrought or overwritten.

An artful, gritty love story, eulogy, and survivor narrative for the city of New Orleans post-Katrina.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60953-119-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Unbridled Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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