cover image The Lower Quarter

The Lower Quarter

Elise Blackwell. Unbridled, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-60953-119-5

Blackwell’s (The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish) newest novel immerses readers immediately in sticky, noirish post-Katrina New Orleans. Four unlikely people are drawn together by the seemingly unrelated murder of a tourist. Eli, a rehabilitated art thief who now works in art recovery; Marion, a bartender, artist, massage therapist, and professional submissive (in the BDSM sense); Johanna, an art restorer; and Clay, the scion of a wealthy old New Orleans family—are all brought together through Eli’s search for a painting that may have been taken from the hotel room of a murdered European tourist. As Eli investigates, he realizes there are deep connections among all of them, and that the painting has been taken to help avenge an injustice. Eli must try to unravel the connections and keep Johanna, in particular, safe, as the painting is irrevocably tied up with the secrets of her past—secrets that connect her and Clay to theft, murder, and international trafficking. The sense of place is strong here. The authenticity of Blackwell’s New Orleans experience is clear on every page, from the bars the characters frequent to the sense of a city rebuilding itself and gentrifying. Similarly, the sense of the suffocating smallness of the international community of art collectors is tangible. These factors will grip readers and keep them turning pages. Though the conclusion is rushed and a little peculiar, readers will forgive it because of Blackwell’s consistently stellar writing. (Sept.)