Hell or High Water

A Novel

Nola Céspedes Novels (Volume 1)

Joy Castro

Thomas Dunne Books

Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, finally catches a break: an assignment to write her first full-length feature. While investigating her story, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in the French Quarter. As Nola’s work leads her into a violent criminal underworld, she’s forced to face disturbing truths from her own past and is confronted with the question: In the aftermath of devastation, who is responsible for rebuilding what's been broken?

Vividly rendered in razor-sharp prose, this haunting thriller is a riveting journey of trust betrayed—and the courageous struggle to rebuild. Fast-paced, atmospheric, and with a knockout twist, Hell or High Water features an unforgettable heroine as fascinating and multilayered as New Orleans itself.



Read an Excerpt

Cecily could find her way to the bathroom perfectly well by herself, thank you very much. She might have been only seven, but she could tie shoes, climb trees like a boy, and ride bikes through the leafy streets of their neighborhood back home in Lawrence. She didn’t need any big sister escorting her to the ladies’ room. She scowled at her father, who relented, shrugging.

“So go, then,” said Sophie, the superfluous big sister, who was eleven.

Quivering with insult, Cecily pushed down from the table and strode off across the restaurant. Sophie watched her



Praise for Hell or High Water

"Castro’s first mystery is fierce and intense, with both harrowing depictions of New Orleans after Katrina and psychological mayhem for its troubled heroine, who crawls under your skin and lingers there long after you’ve finished reading." --Kirkus Reviews

“Exquisite New Orleans background, intriguing newsroom politics and atmosphere, a flawed but plucky heroine, and skillfully paced suspense makes this a ‘stay up way past your bedtime’ read.” –Booklist (starred)

"Readers who enjoy psychological thrillers will find this a fascinating look into an intriguing city. Nola is a feisty character..." --Library Journal

“A terrific mystery, but Hell or High Water is more than just a mystery; it’s a heartfelt examination of a second America—poor but undaunted—that was swept under the rug but refuses to stay there . . . I can’t wait to see what Joy Castro does next.” —Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Mystic River

"Hell or High Water is a tightly written thriller. Nola's first-person perspective and her witty, often cutting dialogue will make the reader believe in the character and really care for her and what happens to her. . . . Like the city for which she was named, Nola is damaged yet unbeaten. . . . an exciting, incisive novel." --El Paso Times

"Hell or High Water is so thick and rich with authentic New Orleans details that you’ll be wiping sweat off your brow and smelling the crawfish étouffée. Joy Castro has crafted a complex, conflicted, and hauntingly real heroine with Nola Céspedes. Shackled to her past and to New Orleans, Castro’s Nola reminded me of Pat Conroy’s Tom Wingo and the Outer Banks in Prince of Tides." --Alex Kava, New York Times bestselling author of The Maggie O’Dell series, Whitewash and One False Move

“In the tradition of P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Lucha Corpi, Joy Castro shows how mystery can be much more than the unraveling of crimes concealed. An irresistible and compelling novel.” —Lorraine M. López, author of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories

In the Press

HELL OR HIGH WATER by Joy Castro | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of HELL OR HIGH WATER . Salvaging lives in post-Katrina New Orleans is no picnic.
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Joy Castro

  • JOY CASTRO teaches literature, creative writing, and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Her 2005 memoir, The Truth Book, was elected an ABA Book Sense Notable Book.
  • Joy Castro Nicky Martinez
    Joy Castro





    Available Formats and Book Details

    Hell or High Water

    A Novel

    Nola Céspedes Novels

    Joy Castro

    Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year


    Thomas Dunne Books