by James Nolan
Published by University of New Orleans
Review by Fritz Esker
Five months after Hurricane Katrina, a New Orleans man is killed in a mysterious drive-by shooting. His sister Nicole, recently returned to the city, becomes tangled up (along with several other supporting characters) in the effort to solve the murder in the new book Higher Ground.
At 271 pages, the novel is brief and moves pretty quickly. However, the wide array of characters (including Nicole’s drug dealing senior citizen grandmother, a cop charged with murder for a post-storm shooting, an amateur hippie detective, Nicole’s high school flame, among others) means none of them feel truly three dimensional. Any of them could have made for an interesting centerpiece for a novel, but the book’s juggling of these characters in such a small frame leaves them feeling somewhat underdeveloped (“A Confederacy of Dunces,” which also dealt with a wide swath of New Orleans life, runs close to 500 pages).
Author James Nolan does have a good feel for the city, giving vivid portrayals of not just the Quarter, but of neighborhoods like Faubourg St. John and Lakeview as well. And for a story set in post-Katrina New Orleans, the novel’s ending strikes an appropriately bittersweet tone.