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Hell or High Water: A Novel (Nola Cespedes Mysteries, #1)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  516 ratings  ·  139 reviews
A psychological thriller in the vein of Kate Atkinson and Tana French that introduces Nola Céspedes, an intense and spellbinding protagonist

Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, catches a break: An assignment to write her first full-length feature. While researching her story, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in New O
ebook, 352 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books
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(showing 1-30 of 1,129)
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Marjorie DeLuca
I picked up a hardback copy of this book from a bargain book sale and boy, did I get a deal! This is a tightly written thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and by the time I was finished reading it, I was ready to book the next flight south to "The Big Easy".
Nola Cespides is the gutsy, gritty aspiring journalist at the centre of the story, but it's her love-hate relationship with the gorgeously decadent city of New Orleans that really provides the heart to the novel. Castro's descriptions o
Book Concierge
The book jacket promises: A gripping, rich psychological thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans that introduces an intense and spellbinding protagonist.

Allowing for the usual hyperbole, this isn’t too far off the mark. Nola Cespedes is a reporter at the Times-Picayune, trying hard to get off the “lifestyle” page and onto the city desk. Finally, she gets the chance – when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans many formerly registered sex offenders were evacuated and no one kept track of their locat
Lynette Barfield

Check review by Bookphile. Could have written exactly the same observations myself. Can't say I liked the book, but neither did I dislike it totally. Entirely too much New Orleans travelogue, too much history, too much about her sexual exploits, too much of everything except plot, and very little of that. Maybe I didn't like it after all. Wonder why I feel the need to finish every book I start.
Julia Amante
Great description of New Orleans. Suspenseful plot with a dynamic characters. Excellent read!
Nola Cespedes may finally get her break when her boss at the Times-Picayune assigns her a feature story. When Nola hears the actual assignment, though, she's more than a little apprehensive. After Katrina, a number of sex offenders vanished off the map. The paper wants a piece covering locals thoughts and perspectives on the issue as well as that of convicted sex offenders as well. While Nola would rather do just about anything than interview possibly violent pervs, she knows it's her best shot ...more
Cindy Roesel
**This was first posted on Chick Lit Central.

A new summer thriller is out and this one may scare you into sleeping with the lights on.

Nola Cespedes is a young, ambitious New Orleans Times-Picayune news reporter, sick of covering fluff stories about the latest happenings in bars, fashions and galleries. In Joy Castro’s debut novel, HELL OR HIGH WATER, the young Cuban-American reporter catches a break. In post-Katrina New Orleans, she’s thrown into the middle of tracking sex offenders, rapists, pe
Alison McLennan
Castro is a brilliant writer. Her descriptions are vivid and unique. Some descriptions, while wonderful, may not be all that necessary. The food descriptions for example. I think I gained ten pounds just reading the book! I'm still craving bread pudding. But now that I think about it, the character's fixation on food probably stemmed from Bulimia. There was only one time where we actually saw it, but everyone kept commenting on how skinny she was while she went all around New Orleans devouring d ...more
4.5 stars. The book is set in post-Katrina New Orleans and is full of authentic details about the city that made me love the book even more I otherwise would have. I loved hearing about the places that I remember that are still there (or not).

Nola Cespedes is a reporter at the Times-Picayune who is handed the first serious story of her career - a feature exploring sexual offenders, the reporting system, and the victims. She was raised in the Desire housing project of the Upper Ninth Ward by her
I thought this book was great! If you enjoy either James Patterson's women's murder club series or Gillian Flynn's books this is probably a novel that you would enjoy. Now, this book is not as dark as Flynn's novels nor is it as nuanced as Patterson's series (they've both had more publications in which to refine their craft), but "Hell or High Water" runs in similar veins to the authors and novels mentioned above. The pace is absolutely spot on. For me, it was a real quick read. Nola, a journali ...more
Hell or High Water is a book I ended up having a lot of mixed feelings about. On one hand, it was a pretty decent mystery. On the other, there were way too many political messages forced upon the reader. I also never particularly cared for the main character.

In Hell or High Water, Nola is working at the Times-Picayune. She gets tasked with finding out what happened with all the sexual predators that never were never heard from again after Hurricane Katrina. She ties this assignment with the sear
First, a quibble with the series note ("Nola Cespedes Mysteries #1"): this is not a mystery -- not even close.

It's also not a suspense/thriller, despite the opening which plops us into a young woman's unexplained disappearance. [By the way, leading with that, and then doing nothing with it, is just poor narrative structure, and portraying it through the perspective of a younger child is transparently manipulative.] Thrillers and suspense novels are all about pacing, and this work has looooong dr
An absorbing read that educates while it pulls you into the tangled story of a 27-year-old Latina reporter in New Orleans whose first hard news assignment is to update the community on the lives of convicted sex offenders who live on -- or off -- the grid. While she pursues her story, which also involves investigating the effects of sex crimes on the victims, the protagonist also hopes to find out how a young woman recently disappeared from a restaurant in the French Quarter in the middle of the ...more
Kourtney Leibman
I really loved parts of this book. I loved Nola. I loved the twist. I loved her views of New Orleans, and I even loved the way she tackled the topic of sex crimes and sex offenders who either checked in or went off the grid after Katrina. I loved the hope we are left with at the end. I have some trouble with the way it was all woven together, though, and I agree with some readers that it was a bit preachy at times. To be honest, I don't have a problem with preachy books when I hear the character ...more
I changed my mind about this story several times throughout. I almost quit reading it at one point. I'm so glad I stuck with it. The main character, Nola, is a newspaper reporter. She has a terrible attitude and very promiscuous. She is a party girl. Through most of the story I just didn't like her. She was OBSESSED with race which almost drove me to distraction. In the end, I understand why she was the way she was, except for maybe the preoccupation with her race. The end had a good twist. The ...more
Tiffany Moss
This book was chosen in my book club, otherwise I would not have taken the time to read it in its entirety. The first third of the book reads like a textbook with historical New Orleans references as well as statistical data of sex crimes. Then we are taken into the life of the main character, Nola, and the many aspects of her life. The books ends abruptly with a chapter or two neatly wrapping up every loose end to every story line that was introduced.

Overall, the story had too many cliches and
I felt like I was reading one of those 1970's tv crime dramas. You know the ones that are overly acted and filled with cliches! This book was so melodramatic in its' presentation there were times that I was laughing at serious scenes in the book. The book, to boot, really didn't follow any format and it felt as though it skipped around that it was pretty discombobulated in how it read. I must admit that if I wasn't reviewing it for Netgalley, it would have gone into the couldn't finish pile. The ...more
1.5 stars. This felt more like a travelogue of New Orleans and a diary written by a woman with a chip on her shoulder than a thriller or a mystery. There were few surprises and the pace was so slow I kept wondering if anything was actually going to happen. And opening the book with the abduction of a young woman through the eyes of a child was simply a misleading gimmick. It had very little to do with the following 300 pages.
Frances Brown
This book was a pleasant surprise, since I only came into contact with it because of my library's book club. Good job for picking it!

Such a pleasure to read a book that's not only so very well written, but has a plot that literally drags you off your seat and into the pages. I was in love with Nola by page five. Definitely a protagonist with an attitude, but one that, you suspect, hides some weaknesses. I was not disappointed.

I will admit - the subject matter, New Orleans in the wake of Katrina
Utterly compelling and difficult to put down. And my lord, did it make me hungry -- all those descriptions of New Orleans food. Beautifully written.
Tim Mcgurrin
This book was, at best, a short story that got bloated into a full novel thanks to 200 superfluous pages of New Orleans history and factual data on sexual abuse. The protagonist is the most unlikeable lead in a book I've ever come across. Despite her genius IQ, she's unbelievably naive and takes no precautions whatsoever when meeting with former abusers. She's rude to her employer and her friends, and seems like an unwilling Big Sister. There's a mystery that is mentioned upfront, casually refer ...more
2008, la Nouvelle Orléans avec en plus le sujet épineux des délinquants sexuels, voilà un livre qui m’aurait intriguée mais que je ne suis pas sûre que j’aurais eu le courage de prendre en magasin. Et là réside l’erreur... Reçu en cadeau après un concours sur la page facebook de série noire, j’avoue que j’ai hésité un peu avant d’avoir le courage d’ouvrir ce livre. Et je ne regrette rien.

Pour ceux qui espéreraient que tout le livre couvre l’enquête qui suit les événements du chapitre d’introduc
Michelle Maas
This story is a psychological thriller rather than a murder mystery. There is a murder, and a mystery, but as other reviewers have noted, Amber's murder investigation largely takes place "off stage." It will be interesting to see if Castro will move murder investigation to center stage in the next Nola Cespedes mystery.
There was so much to love here: The thrill (fright?) of not knowing if Nola would kill herself or save herself at the last moment (Surprise! she invents a 3rd option--and I won't
Nola Céspedes wants a real story to work on, not the society fluff that her editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayunens keeps giving her. Problem is she sometimes can’t rein her temper in. Even when handed a great story, a feature about sex offenders now off the grid because of all the dislocations after Hurricane Katrina, Nola initially back talks and tells her boss it’s not real news. She changes her mind and throughout the book she is putting her first serious piece of journalism together, int ...more
Thank you to Book Sparks PR, Thomas Dunne Books, and St. Martin Press for the opportunity to review this book.


Nola Cespedes is a reporter for the Times Picayune a New Orleans newspaper, and just beginning her career in the newspaper business. Shea has been writing many society pieces for the newspaper. One day her boss Bailey comes with a story at first that Nola does not want to touch. He talks her into taking the story about sexual assault offenders that are off the grid in New Orle
Stephanie Ward
Joy Castro’s novel, 'Hell or High Water', holds loads of potential. The plot is thrilling and the twists unexpected. The descriptions are very vivid and remarkable. Castro easily paints a crystal clear picture of post-Katrina New Orleans. The narrative is very well written with deep characters and a rich setting. Although I normally love thrillers, Castro’s novel seemed to be overwhelmed by statistics that were only tangent to the story and that lose the reader’s attention and focus. Also, altho ...more
I think this would have been a good book if not for some serious flaws. I really did not sympathize with the protagonist until much too late in the book, and there were so many tedious episodes of digression where the narrative would veer away from the plot and launch into several pages worth of historical information about New Orleans. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it just felt too heavy-handed here. More complete review to come.

Full review:

The description of Hell or High Water really
Lilac Wolf
From Lilac Wolf and Stuff

Very well written and edited. I read this book without even one hiccup. Well except for the short people who had to smack my arm to get my attention. I stayed up so late last night because I wanted to finish it, not because I had to.

The main character, Nola felt like a soul sister. She had a few friends but everyone was kept at a distance. They did all appreciate that she could keep a secret. Considering she is a journalist, that's an amazing skill!

She loves the written
Review originally posted at: Book Cover Justice

When a beautiful tourist is kidnapped in the middle of the day, all of New Orleans is on edge. She is the third woman to have gone missing and everyone fears the worst, including Nola Cèspedes, a journalist who has just been given her first important feature at her newspaper. Writing about convicted sex offenders, Nola has to research their crimes and also meet with some who have committed horrible offenses. Not only does this put her in many danger
Douglas Tatelman
I am truly conflicted over whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars.
I’m not even sure it matters, as no one really reads my reviews.

I enjoyed the story even though it’s a crime thriller genre that I rarely read. My personal and business life have more than enough tension so I don’t need to read for more.

The descriptions of life in New Orleans today and the historical prospective provided an excellent view of life in America’s most unique city. I was reminded of the days I lived in a converted mans
Hell Or High Water
Joy Castro

My " in a nutshell" summary...

This is New Orleans after Katrina and the hundreds of rapist, pedophiles, and child molesters that sort of took themselves off of the grid after the storm. Nola...girl working on a hot story that just may save her life and the lives of some others.

My thoughts after reading this book...

Nola is pretty much a hot mess. She is a writer/ reporter who is loaded down with issues. Her childhood was a mess, she is a mess...she car
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Critical Era: Hell or High Water gets the Kirkus Star! 1 5 Dec 19, 2012 02:16PM  
Critical Era: Author Appearance: Joy Castro 1 7 Dec 19, 2012 02:15PM  
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Other Books in the Series

Nola Cespedes Mysteries, (2 books)
  • Nearer Home: A Nola Céspedes Mystery
The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah's Witnesses Nearer Home: A Nola Céspedes Mystery Island of Bones: Essays Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family How Winter Began: Stories

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