Forensic nurse Chastity Byrnes is trying to put her past behind her. It has been ten years since her actions shattered her family and sent her into exile. Ten years since she's seen her sister Faith. But now, Faith needs her help. She's missing from her upscale home in New Orleans, and Chastity has to find her. Along the way she battles her own demons in a city where forensics is an old boy's club and a woman can find trouble in her sleep. She has to investigate fertility clinics, the powers of St. Roch, and the mysteries of voodoo to find her sister. As a hurricane threatens New Orleans, Chastity puts more than her life on the line to rescue her sister from the threat that stalks them both...

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What do New Orleans, St. Louis, St. Roch, DNA, voodoo, Mikimoto, fertility clinics and hurricanes have in common? That would have to be Sinners and Saints, my next medico-forensic suspense due out in September from St. Martin's Press. Yes, it's a bit of a departure for me. It's such a departure, in fact, that I ended up being late on my deadline. I did the inexcusable. I fell in love with my research, and my editor was forced to remind me that I was writing suspense, not "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." So there are 102 pages of quaint stories (sadly, the cop and the porpoise was sacrificed) that will never see the light of day(at least in book form. Keep an eye out here,though, for the new OUTTAKES page, coming in October).

I'm afraid, though, that my editor was right. From what my New Orleans experts have said(I always have my research sources read my manuscript for veracity), they didn't miss my deathless prose at all. Sigh.

So what's left?

What's left is what I thought was a fish out of water story. I've always set my stuff in St. Louis, because I was born here and know its idiosyncracies better than anywhere else. But I really wanted to take a break from terrorizing every trauma nurse in St. Louis.

And so there I was in New Orleans a few years ago, and walking by the Eight District police station in the French Quarter, I see a big paper mache fish dressed like a cop hanging from the fence. It's a big, bright grouper with a cop's hat, a loaded gunbelt, and a suspect's feet hanging from his mouth. I mean, come on. How could you not want to spend more time in a place like this?

Then I learned that my own St. Louis is really New Orleans lite. We have the third largest Mardi Gras celebration in the world, after Rio and New Orleans. We have the Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball, which is a stepchild of Mardi Gras. We have a largely Catholic, multicultural society that cherishes its blues and jazz, its neighborhoods and its traditions.

But even St. Louis doesn't have St. Roch's Campo Santo. I found that little gem while doing general research, and then tracked it down when I was in New Orleans. For those of you who don't know, St. Roch's is a cemetery. Now, everybody knows about the cemeteries in New Orleans, but everybody hears about St. Louis 1, where Marie Lavou, the Voodoo Queen is buried. Nobody much stops by St. Roch's. But here is where people have come for over a hundred years to plead for intercession. Here's where they leave casts and braces and plaster hearts and ears and eyes and noses and feet to thank St. Roch for his intercession. And the part of the equation that really speaks to me is that when St. Roch bestows a boon, he takes one away. Now, how desperate do you have to be to go to somebody like him?

How could I not make use of St. Roch? Of course I did. In fact, I think he gets the creepiest scene.

But there's also that hurricane, (my editor accused me of controlling the weather. I turned the manuscript in three weeks before the hurricane threatened New Orleans last summer), the fertility clinics--did you know that human eggs are so in demand for infertile couples that they are now being auctioned off?--voodoo, and all the rest. I'm putting up the prologue and first chapter. The rest will be available in September. And I'll include more about the book....