'Gumbo Justice' shows the seamy side of New Orleans

"Gumbo Justice" by Holli Castillo; 978-1-892343-51-2; Pages: 238; $14.95; Publication Date: June 2009; Soft-Cover Fiction; Published by: Oak Tree Press.

This fast-paced serial murder mystery debut by Holli Castillo, "Gumbo Justice," takes place in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina.

Ryan Murphy is a prosecutor seeking promotion to an elite squad of attorneys which she believes will make her career stand out. Her illustrious family includes a captain on the New Orleans Police Department who overshadows her accomplishments.

During her tenure with law enforcement as a prosecutor, her superior attorneys required Ryan to become directly involved at the scenes of heinous crimes as they felt she would better prosecute the perpetrators.

She sees first-hand the bodies of victims and the handiwork of the killer. Each of the deaths is orchestrated to achieve a special pattern that is linked to Ryan.

The question of whether she is a target is raised early on in the book and it lingers. Her safety becomes her father's primary concern, and he assigns a couple of his detectives to keep an eye out for her protection.

She is a single lady who loves to escape by having late-evening rendezvous at a local bistro with a bottle. She drinks Tequila at home regularly and often falls asleep in a stupor.

Hung over at times, she still performs her lawyerly duties flawlessly and gets convictions of high-profile crimes. There are times when her behavior gets a bit rowdy, but it is all in keeping with the storyline.

A shortcoming in this novel is the lack of description of many unique and memorable places found in the city of New Orleans.

Too much emphasis is given to a lot of street names. A stranger will find this somewhat distracting, but after a time, it all blends when the tale is more developed.

This is a well-constructed glimpse at the legal justice system as it could be in New Orleans, but brevity should not have hindered Castillo from giving the reader full measure.

Hopefully, book two in this mystery series will satisfy those who want to read more about New Orleans and the exploits of Ryan Murphy.

Castillo is a good writer and she realistically portrays her characters so they come alive.

Your senses will become enmeshed with her passages because she is a good storyteller who captures you with her vivid style. There is a surprise ending!

This book is recommended as an adult book with a dash of New Orleans' seamy side.

Publisher's Weekly

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Clark Isaacs, who lives just outside Kingman, is an accomplished book critic who is published in newspapers and national book review lists.