Daniels’ debut novel depicts the events surrounding a shooting in 1970s New Orleans in a story full of deception, regret, sex and thrills.
Stained glass adorns college professor Dorrie Talardie’s “shotgun” cottage, so called because its rooms are laid out in a row: “If you shot a gun, the bullet would go straight through.” Chronologically, that foreboding description precedes the novel’s major event—a gunshot in Dorrie’s bedroom—but it appears later in the novel. The story’s timeline is as twisted as its characters’ distorted conceptions of truth, revealed through alternating first-person accounts. One character, for example, deludes himself into believing that he didn’t commit a horrifying sexual assault; another takes pride in her marriage, despite her husband’s infidelities and her sacrificed career. At the center of it all is Dorrie, whom some see as a virginal, pitiable cat lady with an unfortunate nest of hair but who is in truth something of a pioneer—a female scholar in the South in the 1970s. She’s also an unlikely companion to her black handyman, Lucius, and, mysteriously, a maternal figure to a neighbor boy who destroyed lives with an impulsive lie. Later, the shooting leaves Lucius in a coma, and those close to him are left to puzzle out who could have committed the act. The novel’s whodunit aspects are less compelling than its setting, which creates a vivid picture of Louisiana during a tumultuous time in its history. Racial tension, homophobia, economic disparity, the sexual revolution and acrimonious reactions to feminism all come into play in what happens to Dorrie and Lucius. Even voodoo plays a crucial role, contributing an exotic aura of mysticism. In such a vibrant atmosphere, a shooting seems almost unexceptional, and as a result, the stakes surrounding the crime never feel terribly high. But what that event means in the characters’ lives is often strange and remarkable, like much of the novel itself.
An eerie mystery rich in historical detail.