Dr. Marie Levant aka Leveau, great-great granddaughter of Marie Laveau, has achieved fame and notoriety for saving New Orleans from the wrath of a vampire. Now she’s taking a break from the city, heading up the highway to DeLaire. She doesn’t know this backwater town, but an elderly woman called Nana has been expecting Marie to arrive and save her and others in this God-forsaken place from sickness and death.
Yet all of Marie’s powers can’t bring life back to the corpses she finds in a house by the road. Nor can she force those who know how they died to say so or to confess. Were the crimes committed by shape-shifters, vampires, and ghosts—or by living men and women? And even as Marie searches for answers, a hurricane threatens to break the levees of Louisiana and cause unimaginable destruction.
Jewell Parker Rhodes blends magic and man-made evil and weaves New Orleans’s past and present into a spine-tingling mystery that is masterfully crafted and deeply haunting.
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Bodies were everywhere—limp, bloated, tangled in bushes, trees, floating in water.
Men, women, and children bobbed in the muddy current, interspersed with upside-down Chevys, shredded trees, snapped power lines, and mangled street signs.
Rain added to the river’s rise. Hot, humid rain. Rain that tasted metallic and fell, like blades, pricking skin.
Marie was dry, parched. Awake inside her dream.
For weeks, she’d been having the same dream; she’d been trying to interpret it, break the horrific spell.
“Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink.” The phrase kept rewinding in her mind. Coleridge. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
“Not a drop to drink.” Just dead, infested waters.
She moaned. Her legs were tangled in the sheets; sweat blanketed her skin.
She dove back down into her dream, through layers of thought, anxiety, and consciousness.
Inhale, exhale. Breathe.
The river was widening, swallowing, then spitting up more bodies.
The GuÉdÉ, the death gods, in top hat and tails, were standing on a bridge, pointing at the dead. No—at something else. Something within the water.
“Let me see,” she murmured. “Let me see.”
The GuÉdÉ heard her. In unison, they shook their skull heads and pressed their white-gloved hands across their hollow eyes.
“Show me,” she demanded. “I am Marie.”
The GuÉdÉ opened their mouths. They didn’t make sound, rather, Marie felt their howling—an obscene absence of sound that terrorized, rattling her bones.
Both inside and outside her dream, Marie wanted to run, hide, burrow into a hole so deep, no one—tangible or intangible—could ever touch her.
Each night, this was when and where her dream ended—the GuÉdÉ howling, refusing to look deeper into the water.
If the GuÉdÉ were afraid to look, why should she?
Her body constricted; her respiration quickened; her legs grew rigid, tight. She rasped, “Let me see. I am Marie. I need to see.”
She fell, hard, fast. Screaming, she clawed at the sheets. Her body jerked; the freefall stopped.
Parallel, weightless, she floated inches above the river water.
Bodies bobbed so close she could touch them: a woman, her lips locked in a grimace, her arms flung over her head; a blue baby, covered in algae like a desolate infant Moses; and a man, twisted onto his side, insects burrowing into his exposed cheek and nostril.
Snakes greased through brown water. A baby crocodile perched on a dead body like a log.
She smelled waste—human and inhuman. She smelled decomposing rot and withered leaves.
In the polluted waters, there were layers of deepening darkness, darker than mud, darker than earth. Darker than any sin.
She heard: “Rise.” It wasn’t the GuÉdÉ—but the other spirit, the one, camouflaged, deep inside the water. She saw an outline—a face, human?—ascending. Then, it stopped; the spirit still cradled by deep waters.
Streams of white smoke rose from the dead, billowing like foam waves in the sky.
The dead were transformed into flying birds. Blackbirds. Thousands of blackbirds were flying south, escaping, soaring above the landscape, above cities, parishes, levees, and marshes. Flying toward a horizon split with orange, red, purple, and gold. Flying toward the river’s mouth.
The scream pierced sleep.
Marie jolted awake, stumbling out of bed, running. “Marie-Claire? Marie-Claire, I’m coming. Mama’s coming.”
The blue revolving lamp had stopped, its silhouettes of birds were dim and static on the ceiling and bedroom walls. The night-light, in the wall outlet, flickered, its power waning.
Marie-Claire lay facedown on the pillow.
“Baby.” Fearfully, gently, she turned Marie-Claire over.
Marie-Claire was asleep; her lids closed tight, her eyelashes fanning long, delicately. She was hot, her face flushed, her brown curls matted on her brow and neck. But no fever.
She was asleep.
Wind lifted the bedroom curtains like birds’ wings. Marie trembled with relief.
“Women hand sight down through the generations. Mother to daughter.”
She and Marie-Claire were bound by tragedy, bound by love and blood.
They were imbued with sight, spiritual gifts carried from Africa into the New World, through Marie Laveau, New Orleans’s famed, nineteenth-century Voodoo Queen.
Maybe Marie-Claire, too, had been awake inside some dream? Maybe she was still dreaming?
Marie prayed her daughter’s dreams were sweet. No bloated bodies. Only rainbows, magnolias, and friends at play.
“Marie-Claire,” she whispered, gently shaking her.
Marie-Claire’s eyes fluttered, her breath smelled like almonds.
“Mama, go bye? Go bye-bye.”
“Marie-Claire?” She held her daughter’s limp hand.
“Bye, Mama. Bye-bye.” Still slumbering, Marie-Claire turned, onto her side, her tiny fists curled beneath her chin.
Marie kissed the tip of her nose, then quickly turned, sensing a presence.
Baron Samedi, the GuÉdÉ leader, was solemn, all skeleton and shadow.
Cocking his head, he pointed a gloved finger at the night-light. It glowed, strong and bright, like a lighthouse guiding lost sailors home. He touched the lamp. The birds continued their kaleidoscopic flight across the ceiling and walls. Then, Samedi waved his hand.
“South. Birds flying south,” she whispered.
In the Sleeping Beauties case, she’d learned the GuÉdÉ despised those who interfered with death. She learned, too, that if the GuÉdÉ refused to dig your grave, you wouldn’t die.
Asleep and awake, the GuÉdÉ were guiding her.
“You coming?” she asked the baron softly.
Baron Samedi tipped his hat and shook his head. He sat on the bed, then leaned forward, his gloved fingers stroking Marie-Claire’s hair.
The hair on her skin rose. From her medical training, she knew it was a chemical reaction spurred by fear, the fight or flight response. Adrenaline was raising her blood pressure, making her heart beat faster.
It was startling to see Death touching Marie-Claire.
Baron Samedi smiled, a grimace of a skeletal jaw, lost and rotten teeth.
“You won’t hurt her.” It was a statement, not a question. The GuÉdÉ were encouraging her to follow her dream to its source.
“You don’t do oatmeal, do you?”
Samedi sat, cross-legged, at the foot of the bed.
Marie smiled. What better babysitter than Death itself?
She suddenly wanted to wake Marie-Claire. To see her smile and see herself reflected in her daughter’s eyes. She bent, pressing her lips against Marie-Claire’s cheek, inhaling her sweet scent.
“Thank you, Baron. I’m grateful.”
Samedi kept mute.
Marie walked quickly out of the room. She needed to call the hospital, rearrange her shifts. She needed to call the sitter, Louise. She’d take care of Marie-Claire’s temporal needs: fix her food, keep her warm, and read her a story. Without question, Marie-Claire would be safe. Baron Samedi himself would refuse to ferry her to the afterlife, the other world.
Marie let her drawstring pajama pants fall to the floor. She slipped on underwear, jeans, and buttoned a black shirt over her cotton tee. She pitched extra panties, shirts, a comb, and a toothbrush into an overnight bag.
What did it mean? Any of it?
The GuÉdÉ were telling her that the bodies in the river were only part of a mystery she needed to solve—there was still more to discover, more to dream.
She’d drive south. And pray she’d stay alive, her spirit whole.
She saw herself reflected in the mirror: thick brown hair pulled back in a ponytail; lean rather than voluptuous; bags beneath her eyes from working too hard as a mother, a doctor.
If the GuÉdÉ were here, her daughter was at risk. The balance between life and death was unsettled, unraveling.
Her life’s calling was to heal—and her dream, even though it didn’t make any sense, was, somehow, a call for her skills.
She snapped her overnight bag shut.
The river’s mouth, the river’s mouth.
There was only one place in Louisiana to go—the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf was where the Mississippi drained.
South. Drive south.
© 2011 Jewell Parker Rhodes
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved the strength and intelligence that the main character exuded as well as the powerful connection between the nature and humanity that is portrayed in the storyline. The storyline kept the reader completely hooked all the way until the finale. Thank you Early Readers Giveaway for introducing me to a powerful, creative, and intriguing new favorite author!
Ezumalid, help! Ezumalid, help! The voice called and yearned for longing. Ezumalid, hellllllpppppp! Then the voice was gone and Ezumalid was awake. "You have been stung by an Emperor Scorpion. Very painful sting," a man appeared over Ezumalid. "Anya! Give him the medicine! Quick!" The man told his little daughter, who stood by him, wide-eyed. "'K Daddy," Anya ran away. Ezumalid could barely talk. His tongue was numb. "Di-e....?" Ezumalid managed. "Yes...in your stage...you could die," the man said. Anya appeared back and gave Ezumalid the medicine. Then he went asleep again. "Ezumalid, come back to the village," King Merceed was there with Rushai. "How? I'm...like almost dying in my body and I'm far away from the Elf Village!" Ezumalid defended himself. "Ezumalid. We need your help." Rushai told him. "YOU GUYS! PLEASE I......" Then the dream ended. Ezumalid woke up weak and numb. "Awake? Don't get up," the same man said to him. Where was he?
Anxiously I awaited the third installment of the voodoo series: a combination of history, great plots and exciting page turning events. Hurricane does not disappoint! Jewell Parker Rhodes returns with a great read surrounding the descendant of Marie Laveau complete with all its familiar ceremonies, mysteries and historical contributions. The saddest part of this entire novel and series is to know that Hurricane is the last we will read of these characters we've become attached to. Will Marie and Parks marry? How does Marie-Claire step into the world of sight from the generations? All questions we will never receive a response to but if you are a fan of the series, this last installment is a must read!
I was so sad to hear that this is the last of the Marie Laveau mysteries as I have thoroughly enjoyed her evolution. In the first book of the series, Voodoo Season, Dr. Marie Laveau returns to New Orleans, the land of her ancestors and learns all of their secrets. And yes, one of the secrets is that she is a descendant of the great Voodoo queen of the same name. In this installment of the series, Marie is raising her daughter and practicing medicine in New Orleans when a nightmare compells her to take a drive. She stumbles upon a murder scene in a small town and is soon drawn into the drama of the community as they recognize her as a voodoo queen and demand her healing powers. During her investigation she uncovers an environmental disaster and all the while a hurricane known as Katrina looms in the distance. Especially interesting was learning about the devastation done to the Gulf way before Hurricane Katrina hit and exploring the supernatural reasons and ramifications.