Wednesday, January 17

Sinners and Saints by Eileen Dreyer

Review by Gloria Feit


In what can only be described as prescience, Eileen Dreyer's Sinners and Saints takes place in a New Orleans that is bracing for a hurricane, what would be the earliest ever to hit that City.   The book was published days before New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina, a devastating event from which it is still trying to recover, and it was obviously written much earlier than that.  Reading it now is an erie experience. 


Chastity Byrnes is a 26-year-old former trauma nurse in St. Louis, now "one of two new forensic nurse liaisons at St. Michael's, her job being not only to save patients, but preserve any viable forensic evidence that might prove a possible criminal or civil case.  She made sure abuse victims didn't fall through the cracks, rape victims got better treatment from the hospital than they did from their attackers, and unknown patients were identified.  She helped police and hospital personnel work more efficiently together."  And she needs to call upon all of those skills when she receives a call one day from a brother-in-law she didn't even know she had, the husband of a sister she had had no contact with for ten years, ever since the day that sister and their mother left their home without a word.  She is told her sister has gone missing, and five days later finds herself in New Orleans, having agreed to try to help in the search for her sister, Faith.  (The third sister was called "Hope.")  Chastity is the survivor of an unspeakably horrendous abusive childhood (her accusations against her father having resulted in his incarceration), the effects of which have barely diminished over the years.  She finds she has to "protect herself from old sins and older secrets."  Each time she thinks she knows all of the secrets, she finds more are yet to be unearthed.


The writing is wonderfully evocative, most strikingly in its descriptions of New Orleans.  On Jackson Square: "Chastity stopped at the edge of the square, enchanted.   She wasn't really a mystical person.  She'd given up her faith with her virginity, long before she could comprehend either.  If she could, though, she thought, she might look for it again here in the dark, where the trees dripped shadows and the church bells tolled into the night.  Where usually raucous voices quieted to a murmur, and the only real lights were the candles that flickered on the psychics' tables.  If there was magic, she thought, it was here."  The ominous presence of the impending storm is a living, breathing thing - one cannot help but feel the winds and the lashing waters that surround Chastity throughout the novel, embodying her worst nightmare from the scarred days of her nightmare-filled world from her earliest memories.  The suspense builds as Chastity continues her search.  People to whom she speaks are killed, and her own life is in danger.   Chastity and her friends, Kareena, a New Orleans nurse who helps her, and Kareena's cousin, James, a survivor himself although of entirely different circumstances, a cabdriver who Chastity hires as a chauffeur, among other things, are terrific creations.  Recommended.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home