Crime is a family business for the Murphy family in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Assistant District Attorney Ryan Murphy is plenty busy in the courtroom and the local bars without having to walk crime scenes in the middle of the night. Thanks to it being an election year for the District Attorney, she has no choice but to go out and walk them in the middle of the night since it is her week to do so. Alerted by her brother, Sean, a NOPD Homicide Detective that he has sent another detective to pick her up, the only question she has for herself is whether or not to wear a bra since she doesn’t plan on dressing up and ruining another outfit or nice pair of shoes. She might worry a little about the fact that she can’t remember much about earlier in the evening, but, she doesn’t have time since the ride is supposed to be there in five minutes. Considering the fact that her over protective father, Kelly Murphy, Captain of the Sixth District in New Orleans will most likely be there she decides she better wear that bra and get going.


The latest murder victim in the housing project is a black male, approximately twenty years old, naked and was tied up and beaten before being shot in the head. He was L’Roid Smith, the Leader of the Soldiers, who was supposed to face trial later in the week for the murder of three rival gang members. Ryan had prosecuted him before on murder charges and had to dismiss the case after all of her witness disappeared. Now the streets have taken care of him.


For Ryan, it won’t be the first killing that has links to her. Links that become obvious to others and raise question as to her involvement in the killings at about the same time she starts realizing the implications personally and career wise. Against a back drop of politics, coveted powerful positions in the District Attorney’s office, and rampant crime, Ryan has to control her own personal demons long enough to deal with a psycho that has targeted her.


Ryan is the classic clichéd law enforcement figure albeit this time in female form. Haunted by nightmares, she drinks far in excess to the point of blackouts; looks for love in all the wrong places while amazingly oblivious to the man in her life who has a romantic interest, and lets her mouth get the better of her in the courtroom and out. She works hard, lives even harder, and one can see the chip on her shoulder from a mile away. Clichéd flaws that could work if used for introspection.


What introspection is here is limited and repetitive. One never gets the feeling of the character coming totally alive for the reader and thus the character exists more as a stereotype than anything. That is unfortunate as while the basic character flaws are clichéd, they are so because other authors have used them quite well to create introspection and empathy for the character.


That lack of character development depth leads to the core of the tale regarding action and investigation as the driving force of the novel. On that level, when Ryan is either actively working the courtroom or various cases, the novel works well and moves forward. At other times, especially in the chapters devoted to the viewpoint of the troubled psychopath, the novel nearly stalls.


“Gumbo Justice” is the debut novel of a planned series that does show considerable promise despite its rough edges. Despite its flaws, the overall read is worthwhile and one hopes that the second novel will improve on the basic foundation of the series.


Gumbo Justice

Holli Castillo

Oak Tree Press

June 2009

ISBN# 978-1-892343-51-2

Large Trade Paperback

237 Pages



Book provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2009


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