SINNERS AND SAINTS
BY EILEEN DREYER
by Claire McManus
My book club's book for April was Sinners and Saints, by
Eileen Dreyer. We've been experimenting with different ways
of reading. Last month we decided to read two books with
similar settings, and then compare/contrast them. This month
we all put our names in a hat.
The person whose name was selected was in charge of getting
the book. We all gave her $10 and shipped her off to Barnes & Noble
to come back with 10 copies of the chosen book for us.
We all know each other pretty well, and we know what we
like and what we don't, so this wasn't as risky as it sounds.
She came back with 10 copies of Sinners and Saints, which
she'd found on the remainder shelves for $6.99 each! What
a joy to get a hardcover for less than what we pay for some
paperbacks (I was reminded of the recent discussion on DL
of the pleasures of hardcovers). And, with the leftover
money, we got a nice selection of cakes and cookies for
She said she chose the book because several of us have friends
or family in New Orleans, and we've all been concerned about
what's going on down there in the wake of Katrina.
Also, the book has a fabulous cover….
We liked the book's set-up quite a bit. Chastity Byrnes
is a forensic nurse living in St. Louis.
She has a troubled past that has led to a break with her
sister, Faith. Out of the blue Chastity gets a call from
a brother-in-law she didn't know she had. He asks for her
help in finding Faith in New Orleans. Sensing the opportunity
for a reconciliation, Chastity heads off to the Big Easy.
We all thought this was a very plausible premise for a mystery.
One member mentioned that the subtext is the idea that nothing
interesting happens in America's "second cities" like
St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati—and that you
have to go to one of the big cities to get any excitement.
We also loved the New Orleans atmosphere—the sense
of personal freedom, the cemeteries, parties, the "get
drunk and make love" ethos of the place, along with
its darker side of voodoo history and crime. As Chastity
investigates, she finds that people who tried to help her
sister have also disappeared, which is a suspenseful premise.
Interestingly, what also adds incredibly well to the suspense
is a gathering storm/hurricane that could wipe out New Orleans.
So, Chastity is racing against the clock and, perhaps, someone
who's out to get her. Again, this was a totally plausible
scenario and really made for a page-turner.
We liked the characters too, though, but with some reservations.
Chastity, while engaging, seems to be today's stock mystery
heroine, independent and sassy. There's also the sort of
stock romance with an ex-fireman she hires to be her guide
around New Orleans. The dialogue there can get a little
cloyingly cute. We also felt that the book was a little
too long. In addition, this is a very Mary Higgins Clark
type of book, with short sentences and paragraphs written
at a very low reading level. This makes it a good book for
people of all ages, but it's not really a sophisticated
read, and some of the writing is unintentionally funny.
(Example: "Chastity embraced a plethora of personal
portents.") A couple of us have teenage children and
we thought this would be a good book to help them make the
transition into adult reading, especially because the story
is so cinematic and well crafted.
So, in a nutshell, we really did enjoy this book. It created
a sense of sadness all over again for what has happened
to the people of New Orleans, and it also made several us
think we'd like to pick up another book by the same author
as a good beach or airplane read.
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