New Orleans, LA

Vodou and Corruption in New Orleans in "The Quarter Storm"

The Fiction Addiction

In The Quarter Storm, by Veronica G Henry, Reina Dumond is a Haitian voodun priestess with water powers. She mostly makes a living selling small spells for guidance, for finding lost things, or to settle relationship trouble.  The magic is real -- there's never a question of whether her powers are real, or whether there's a supernatural payment required for what Reina can do. I loved reading the descriptions of spells, there's a real poetry in the list of essentials and steps. But the story is still grounded in everyday life in New Orleans. Sure, she makes a living with magic, but Reina pays on her rent-to-own cottage or deals with late-paying (and non-paying customers), always a freelancer's stress. The story blends mystic knowledge and legend, New Orleans characters and customs, and dark corruption.
The Quarter Storm cover(

Reina gets a new client, a young girl looking for a spell to keep her boyfriend faithful. There's something odd about the new client andher story, althouh she's ready to pay in full and already brought the needed ingredients for the spell.  (That soil from a plant might really be grave dirt, and Reina's not messing with that.) When that boyfriend turns up dead, with a rival mambo accused of the murder, Reina knows she has to investigate.

The central murder is really gross, but it's mostly offstage, and the characters react to the grossness with horror and revulsion. It wasn't too bad for me, partly because I was already invested in Reina by then, and partly because it's shocking but not very detailed.

The Quarter Storm excells at leading readers to care about the characters. I didn't realize how sold I was on Reina until her ex-boyfriend returned, and I found myself mentally screaming NO! You deservce better! Kick him out! as I read. Her interactions with friends and contacts in New Orleans (not everyone we meet is interested in helping Reina or solving the murder) show rituals and customs in the city, and help develop the intriging secondary characters.

Last summer, I was reading Bacchanal, a story by the same author set at a mystic carnaval, while I was sitting outside on a town green in Gorham, NH, as the actual Fourth of July carnaval set up around me. This summer, I was reading The Quarter Storm outside in Carrboro, NC, and smelled the patchouli incense, just when Reina did. Look, I'm not saying these books are magic or anything, but...

I'd liked, but ultimately not loved Bacchanal, by the same author, because while the cast of characters and magic system were intriguing, the pacing was too slow for me. I felt like we had too many repetitive conversations, and the slow dscovery phase went on too long, and worked against any sense of urgency and discovery. But, you guys, Quarter Storm is a perfectly paced mystery, where every scene develops the main mystery plot, shows more about Reina's character, and develops the other characters in the French Quarter. The story unfolds gently and naturally, well, with a little help from Reina's powers.

There's a second Mambo Reina book in the works, just in case you want to set an alert like I did.

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