Book review: 'The Devil in Her Way'

Associated PressMay 11, 2013 

"The Devil in Her Way" by Bill Loehfelm.

  • Fiction The Devil in Her Way Bill Loehfelm

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 228 pages

When we first met Maureen Coughlin in 2011’s “The Devil She Knows,” the petite cocktail waitress was drifting through life, fearful that she lacked the gumption to ever become anything more.

But by the end of that noir crime novel, Bill Loehfelm’s third, Maureen’s confrontation with a mobbed-up politician who meant her harm had irrevocably changed her. In “The Devil in Her Way,” we find her transplanted to New Orleans and freshly graduated from its police academy.

Like his creation, Loehfelm grew up in Staten Island and now lives in New Orleans, and his beautifully written novels excel at capturing the sounds, smells and rhythms of both places.

The action begins when Maureen and an older officer assigned to mentor her respond to a disturbance at an apartment building. There, she is punched in the face by a fleeing suspect, and the cops discover three guns and several pounds of marijuana inside.

But what draws Maureen’s attention is a couple of loitering young boys who seem unnaturally interested in the proceedings. As she tries to learn what they are up to, she uncovers a criminal conspiracy that threatens their lives – and her own.

Maureen’s inexperience gets her into trouble, but she’s too spunky and determined to back away from the case – or from her ambition to work in the homicide division. After what she’d gone through on Staten Island, she’s not one to be intimidated.

Post-Katrina New Orleans, with its thriving French Quarter, its still-ruined neighborhoods, its scandal-riddled police force and its often obnoxious tourists, has been the setting for a couple of outstanding crime novels, including James Lee Burke’s “The Tin Roof Blowdown” and Sara Gran’s quirky “Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.” Loehfelm’s “The Devil in Her Way” measures up to that standard and then some.

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