The July issue of BookPage features a special extended column on six must-read mysteries—all written by women. In today's edition of BookPageXTRA, we called out a seventh terrific thriller: Hell or High Water by Joy Castro.

The novel takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans, and stars Nola Céspedes, a reporter for the Times-Picayune. Nola is assigned a story on missing registered sex offenders in the city. She soon discovers they might be linked to an outbreak of abductions.

BookPage interviewed Castro about the subject matter of her novel, the challenges of writing a thriller and why she loves New Orleans. Here's an excerpt:

Hell or High Water is very vividly set in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. On your website you explain that your husband is from Louisiana, and you’ve been visiting the city for 20 years. Why does post-Katrina New Orleans make a good setting for a crime novel?
Thank you! Katrina hit in August, 2005, and the book is set in April, 2008.

Hell or High Water works particularly well in post-Katrina New Orleans because the novel looks specifically at sex crimes, which have a long aftermath. There’s the initial trauma, and then there’s the long, difficult, uncertain process of coming back, of healing. Just because offenders are caught and convicted—and often they’re not—does not mean the damage is somehow magically healed. Recovering is a process. It takes time, and it’s frustrating and painful to the survivors, who often don’t get the help they need.

You’re probably already anticipating the analogy. The city of New Orleans, which is still wrestling with the aftermath of Katrina’s devastation, experienced a similar story writ large. The storm itself was over by September, but its fallout, both in terms of the emotional trauma and the practical difficulties of rebuilding, has lasted for years.

No matter how committed they are, survivors can become exhausted, frustrated, heartbroken, fed up. That’s the story I wanted to tell: the story of aftermath. [Read more. . . ]


Hell or High Water is on sale today. Will you check it out?

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