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“Forbidden from practicing their own religion, like the uncanny survivors they were, our ancestors had improvised: they’d adopted all that Catholic imagery so slavers couldn’t tell they were still praying to our African gods.”
This story caught my attention randomly, like most great books do. The connection was immediate. A mystery mixed with Haitian vodou. Sign me up. Published in 2022, the story, also titled Mambo Reina Book 1, centers on a vodou priestess named Mambo Reina Dumond. Her patron Erzulie controls water and is partial to mothers and children. However, she has been unable to conceive a child, perhaps fortunate since she split with her boyfriend, Roman Frost.After fleeing Haiti with her parents, Reina settles down in Tremé, where she lives alone in a New Orleans shotgun house with a sign reading: Le Petit Temple Vodoun 1791. However, things heat up quickly after a new client’s boyfriend is brutally murdered. Detective Frost arrests Salimah Grenade, a priestess with a successful shop on Royal Street called Voodoo Real. Confident the police are incorrectly charging Salimah with the homicide; Reina begins her own investigation. She requests the assistance of her dear friend, Darryl Sweet Belly, who owns Lemon Drop restaurant, and Lucien Alexander. The latter is a powerful vodouisant with tremendous influence in the complicated—and often corrupt—politics of New Orleans. Soon Reina uncovers a secret that many would kill to keep secret, including the police. She connects the murder to Hurricane Katrina, whose devastation on the city seems unending. I read this book in two settings, only because of my job. Take a journey into New Orleans’ vodou past and the trauma of a city crippled by nature and corruption. Strong recommendation. I’m already reading the sequel.