New Orleans does not have a stellar reputation if you’re talking about honest officers of the peace. Corrupt politicians and bad lieutenants come to mind. Enter Maureen Coughlin, first introduced in Loehfelm’s The Devil She Knows (2011), a former cocktail waitress and now rookie cop straight out of the academy. Couglin is trying to straighten out her life after moving from Staten Island to the Big Easy, where she hopes to prove herself against the backdrop of a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
Coughlin is eager to make an impression at her new job, and succeeds—getting socked in the face by a perp on her first day. Training officer Preacher Boyd, who’s seen it all before, tries to slow her down and offer some practical advice on community relations, but the new recruit prefers charging ahead first and asking questions later. Despite her naïveté she draws the attention of Detective Sergeant Christine Atkinson, who sees potential in Coughlin’s dash toward justice.
The Devil in Her Way might be categorized as a thriller, but its strengths lie in the relationships it explores: between Coughlin and Boyd, Coughlin and Atkinson, Coughlin and her adopted city. Readers familiar with the experience of settling into a new job in a new city will find plenty to relate to here. But Loehfelm also zeros in on the unique neighborhoods of New Orleans, and the challenges that they face. He manages to avoid broad, touristic strokes (well, there is a visit to Café Du Monde, but Coughlin’s gotta take her visiting mom somewhere, right?), preferring portraits of everyday life like evening runs under night-blooming flowers and romantic liaisons over po’ boys on the stoop.