Wednesday, January 31

Sinners and Saints by Eileen Dryer

Review by Diana Bane

Chastity Byrne, a forensic nurse, goes to New Orleans looking for her missing
sister and finds a whole lot of trouble instead, including a hurricane named
Bob that looms over and haunts the city as it grows ever larger and closer.

Eileen Dryer, a forensic nurse who writes suspense novels, went to New
Orleans and found a whole lot of trouble, including a hurricane named Katrina. The
hardcover debut of Sinners and Saints happened just a few days before Katrina
struck. Sometimes real life is not just stranger, it's worse than fiction. A
whole lot worse.

Reading Dryer's book in paperback now makes for a poignant experience,
because the atmosphere of New Orleans, as it was before Katrina, permeates every
scene. Though "innocent" is not an adjective one would normally ever apply to New
Orleans, a kind of innocence seems to hang over these characters as they go
about their fictional business, not having a clue how bad a hurricane can be.
The main character, Chastity Byrnes, who hails from St. Louis, roams from the
French Quarter out to the bayous and back, from cemeteries to Gallatoire's,
from one vividly described scene to another. Most of the time she's in the
company of a former fireman called James who turned cab driver after being burned
down one side of his body. Chastity is a feisty survivor of a family that is
beyond dysfunctional -- the family secrets emerge as Chastity's search
progresses, and they are horrendous. She is an engaging character who becomes moreso
with each revelation. Her sidekick and fellow forensic nurse, Kareena, is a
hoot, with a mind like a razor.  The more these three uncover, the more there
seems yet to be discovered -- and all this time the police are not idle either.
Just to make things more complicated there's the pending Hurricane Bob, and the
fact that Chastity is frightened to her very soul of water.  Eventually we
find out the very good reason why.

I hope that many, many people will read this book, not just because it
deserves to be read for its story alone, but also because with a year's distance
from Katrina, the reality of that tragedy now enhances the book in a way that is
almost eerie. One need only think of a heroine frightened by water, juxtaposed
against our memory of the flooding that we all saw on our tv sets, to
understand just how much courage it takes for the fictional Chastity to remain in New
Orleans for her sister's sake although she knows that the hurricane is
coming. We want to yell "Heads-up, woman!" at Kareena, who can't quite believe the
hurricane will really hit -- and she's a trauma nurse at the city's biggest
hospital for its poorest people. And there is more that resonates in this way,
much more than I can tell in a review. Read Sinners and Saints for yourself.
You won't be sorry.

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