Depressed and shaky after shooting the druglord who killed her partner (House of Blues, 1995), Skip Langdon's put on leave from the New Orleans Police Department. But enforced idleness is the last thing she needs, especially since she's convinced that mayoral candidate Rev. Errol Jacomine, the saint of skid row, is major bad news, and can't think of anything but getting the goods on him. Without a shield to back her up, Skip makes a few tentative inquiries about Jacomine's ties to Nikki Pigeon, who was killed before she could testify about Jacomine's abuse--and gets crushed by the juggernaut of Jacomine's disinformation campaign. Even her new therapist, Boo Leydecker, quits on her, now that her husband Noel Treadaway's gone to work as Jacomine's press secretary. But Boo's got troubles of her own: Noel's in love with their 15-year-old babysitter, Torian Gernhard, whose shattered family--her divorced parents' hopeless self-absorption detailed in the strongest scenes in the book--inevitably takes refuge with her inaccessible lover's boss just as Hurricane Hannah comes sweeping into town. The hurricane, as you'd expect, pretty much levels Smith's finer nuances. She ends up with two thirds of a masterpiece: a telling group portrait of family and city almost Dickensian in its wealth of probing detail.