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Review: New mystery mixes murder, crime and spies into post-Katrina New Orleans
"Storm Damage: a Crime Novel" (Minotaur), by Ed Kovacs: The bleak and dangerous situation in New Orleans that followed Hurricane Katrina has an element of treachery added to it in Ed Kovacs' new novel, "Storm Damage."
As the book opens, it's five months, 15 days into the "new normal," as residents called the time just after the storm. Kovacs' hero, Cliff St. James, was a policeman until the hurricane. He is now teaching martial arts, but he's broke and going deep into debt.
"Mother Nature and the looters had destroyed my place of business; my students fled to points unknown around the country. I had no job, no income. Me and a couple hundred thousand other people."
St. James is in his damaged dojo when a woman walks in and startles him so much, he's decked by a student. Twee Siu is the daughter of the last murder victim before Katrina hit. Her father was a friend of St. James, and she wants to hire the former cop to find out what happened. He is reluctant to take the case until Siu offers him $550 a day plus expenses and a $30,000 bonus if he finds out what happened to her father.
In "Storm Damage," everyone has an ulterior motive and everyone is dirty, especially the police and Detective Sgt. Dice McCarty, who was St. James' nemesis when he was on the force. McCarty has since hooked up with St. James' ex-wife.
As St. James looks for answers, he wanders through a city that is as dark ' and the characters as hard to pin down ' as the floodwaters still swirling in many of the city's streets.
Finding out what happened isn't going to be easy. The body disappeared with the flood, and so did any evidence. That's not to say St. James won't find out a lot about his old friend, including a connection with the CIA.
By the time Mardi Gras hits the storm-torn streets, St. James is trying to not only solve a mystery, but also avoid a killer who's looking for him.
Kovacs has written a fast-paced, gritty novel in which no one is to be trusted and nothing is as it seems. His noir take on the thriller will hook readers and make residents of New Orleans glad that although things were bad in their city, they weren't as bad as Kovacs paints them.