Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hurricane by Jewell Parker Rhodes

As promised last year, here is my review of the third and final volume that completes Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Marie Laveau mystery trilogy starring the famous New Orleans’ voodoo queen’s descendant, Dr. Marie Levant.

The book begins with Dr. Marie, who has since changed her last name from Levant to Laveau, driving south, following a disturbing dream. This leads her to a shack deep in the Louisiana bayou where a family of three-father, mother, and child—lie dead; all have been murdered. When she goes to report the crime to the local sheriff, his brother takes her to their home and introduces her to their grandmother, Nana, an old voodoo woman, blind and riddled with cancer, who foretold Marie’s coming.

The town of Delaire has no doctor, everyone has always relied on Nana and her powers whenever they were ailing, and hearing that there is a real medical doctor in their midst, the locals flock to Nana’s house to see Marie. Strangely, many of them suffer from cancer and other diseases and have lived longer than they should have without modern medical care.

Marie does the best she can for them, but when she discovers that the sheriff has covered up the murders, burning the crime scene, she is furious and returns to New Orleans. There the police also show no inclination to investigate and advise her to just let it go. There are other things to worry about. The weather reports are full of a brewing tropical storm called Katrina and everyone is wondering if this will turn out to be “the big one.”

After a colleague is killed, possibly because she was mistaken for Marie, Marie races back to bayou country accompanied by a handsome red-haired Cajun doctor, K-Paul who wants to be more than just a friend to her. Marie is also perplexed by visions of two loas, Voodoo spirits, one half male and half female who freely shifts between the two genders, the other a teal mermaid water goddess.

Marie soon discovers the secret in Delaire that the powers that be hoped to keep buried—the preponderance of cancer and other illnesses in the area is due to environmental factors, oil pollution and damage caused and covered up by Vivco Oil. And Nana helped her people by using her powers as a sin eater to swallow their illnesses until she literally bit off more than she could chew and became sick herself.

And as the great storm of Katrina rages, battering New Orleans, it’s up to Marie Levant-Laveau to save the day.

Though I personally thought it the weakest volume in the trilogy, Hurricane kept my attention from start to end. I confess that, being long familiar with the legends about the real Marie Laveau and the stories told about her being swept up by a hurricane and presumed dead, I hoped the author would tie these into the series finale in some way, but they were never mentioned. But I always liked the heroine she created, and I was a little sorry to see her go, and could not help but wish her well, though at the same time I was also glad that this was not being stretched into an ongoing series. It was time to say goodbye and Ms. Rhodes ended it all upon a positive note.

Note: The first two books, Voodoo Season and Yellow Moon have since been reissued in trade paperback with their titles shortened simply to Season and Moon, you can find my reviews of both, under their original titles by either searching this blog or scrolling through the list of labels on the far right side of the screen.

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