Unexpected, Unique — and Made Me Think
November 4, 2009
For several reasons, it was with great anticipation that I started reading Holli Castillo’s “Gumbo Justice.” Not recently, but years back, I visited New Orleans and still have fond memories of historic homes, Lake Pontchartrain, the French Quarter, and Loyola University—all seen with the bright-eyed naiveté of youth. And memories of wonderful food!
I met Holli at the 2009 PSWA Conference, and for me, meeting an author also adds something “special” to reading their work. And on a more mundane level, my marvelous Aunt Mary makes “killer-gumbo” — a fact not relevant to Holli’s Novel, but a tidbit that definitely added title appeal (Do a lot of thinking and decision making with my stomach).
Given that mind set, “Gumbo Justice” was not at all what I expected. Part police procedural, part murder mystery, and part inter-family relationship drama, this novel also takes on legal and justice concerns—while keeping the reader involved, interested, and entertained.
I usually prefer murders that occur “off camera,” the dialogue refined, and my heroes urbane armchair detectives who only occasionally get their suits mussed. Nonetheless, the quite unique and audacious Ryan Murphy immediately yanked me into her New Orleans life, family, and ADA profession from the first paragraphs, and then continued to keep me caring about her—rough language and overt sexuality notwithstanding.
Holli skillfully transports you from your favorite reading chair into the heart of one aspect of the New Orleans criminal scene. You can feel and smell the heat, the humidity, and see the decay in the St. Thomas Housing Development. Through Ryan’s senses you read the street names, see the neighborhood, feel the pain. Ryan’s New Orleans is not the city of travelogues or my youth, but a real living city of today. And Ryan Murphy is a heroine I not only ended up liking, but also found myself rooting for every step of her journey.
And for mystery fans like me, the murder mystery in “Gumbo Justice” unfolds wonderfully, and is well worth the suspenseful wait!