Vodou priestess Mambo Reina Dumond learned the practices and customs of Vodou as a child from her father, while her family was living in Haiti. She is inhabited by the spirit of Erzulie, which makes her a gifted practitioner of water magic. Reina operates a small business behind her home in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans for both tourists and locals alike.
Shortly after an unusual session with a first time client, Reina is informed that a crime has been committed in the apartment above one of the more high-profile Vodou shops in the French Quarter. The tenant of the apartment is found murdered. But not simply killed, he has been found dismembered.
Mambo Salimah Grenade, the owner of the shop, is a relatively new vodouisant, only practicing in the area for a bit over a year. When Mambo Grenade found her tenant dead, she called the police herself. However, because of her ties to the Vodou community, the police took her into custody immediately.
While Reina hasn’t known Salimah long, she doesn’t believe she is capable of murder. And she knows that no one who practices her faith is capable of what Salimah has been accused. Reina believes strongly that Salimah has been accused solely on the basis of her faith. And if that has happened to her, it can happen to anyone in the area. Reina knows that to save her community, and ultimately herself, she must prove that Salimah is innocent and discover the identity of the real killer.
In The Quarter Storm, Veronica G. Henry provides a top notch mystery along with an interesting spin on urban fantasy. By choosing to root her fantasy in the world of Vodou, Henry not only is able to recount and comment on the history of Africans in America, she is also able to reference how Vodou, and so many other elements of African culture brought to the Americas have regularly been co-opted, vilified, demonized and misrepresented in dominant culture for use and amusement while simultaneously damning its practitioners for their beliefs.
As the first in a proposed series, Henry does a lot of world building in the novel. Her descriptions of New Orleans, in general, and Tremé, in particular, are vivid and evocative. Henry has also assembled a wonderful cast of supporting characters, including Detective Roman Frost, with whom Reina has a very complicated relationship; Tyka, a street urchin Reina has befriended and relies upon almost as much as the girl relies on her; and Darryl “Sweet Belly” Boudreaux, the proprietor of a local bar, The Lemon Drop, who is a font of community information and requires an offering of candy when approached for information. The level of the information given is commensurate to the quality of the candy offered.
Read an interview with the author here.