In 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, leaving behind empty streets, ruined art and a skeleton crew of old-guard residents. The discovery of a dead body in a historic hotel couldn’t come at a worse time for the understaffed, struggling New Orleans police force. The murder reopens the investigation into the decades-old theft of a highly valued European painting, which causes the lives of four people to intersect.
Johanna owns a studio in the city’s Lower Quarter, where she restores paintings by both local and notable artists. Work represents reinvention to Johanna, who has a dark past and owes her career to Clay Fontenot, a disreputable, wealthy young man from an old-money New Orleans family.
Bartending pays Marion’s bills, but hiring herself out to men with a taste for BDSM comes in handy when cash is tight. It’s in the second role that she meets Clay. She doesn’t allow herself much time for reflection—except on her love of painting, and how it might factor into her future.
Elizam, who goes by Eli for short, is an art thief, fresh out of prison. His skills landed him a job at an art recovery office, where he is assigned the task of finding a missing painting in New Orleans—the same painting tied to the dead body found in the old hotel. More than Eli’s job is on the line should he not recover the painting: They will send him back to jail if he fails.
The characters are all vivid, but the star of the show is New Orleans itself, which author Elise Blackwell (Hunger) brings forth in all its steamy, noir-ish glory. The Lower Quarter is a riveting narrative about crime, art, violence and renewal in a city that embodies all four.