Salvaging lives in post-Katrina New Orleans is no picnic.
Nola Céspedes is fed up with the puff pieces she’s assigned at the Times-Picayune. So when she’s given a shot at a major feature story—how well do rehabilitated sex offenders do when released back into the community?—she goes all-out, even nudging her friend Calinda over in the district attorney’s office for unpublicized details concerning the recent rape and mutilation of a young tourist. Her choice of which serial rapists to interview is as dangerous as her choice of one-night stands. Nola is so driven, argumentative and protectively secretive about her upbringing in the tawdry Desire Projects that her gay housemate Uri suggests therapy. But she’s too busy preparing for a wedding and meeting her mother’s female lover for the first time. Her stress escalates when another young girl goes missing, and she becomes even more promiscuous, more argumentative, more out of control and more worried about one of her interviewees, a former vice principal who seems overly interested in the young girl she’s mentoring and the female students playing in the school courtyard across from his apartment. Nola’s final attempt to deal with the sordidness surrounding her brings death and a start at reclaiming her own past.
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. A sequel is in the works.