Review by: Nina Gomez
Synopsis from Goodreads:
No one remembers…
One October morning in 1932, Vicente Sorolla entered the white house on the hill and was never seen again.
Now, Detective Dori Orihuela helplessly witnesses his brutal murder in her nightmares.
Settling into a 120 year-old Edwardian mansion, Dori restores her dream home while recovering from a bullet wound and waiting to go back on duty.
But then one afternoon, Vicente materializes out of her butler's pantry and asks her to find a woman named Anna. Dori wonders if she's not only about to lose her badge, but also her sanity.
Dori and Vicente's unlikely friendship takes us back to the waning days of Prohibition in San Diego and the dusty barrio of National City. Mary Castillo's new novel, featuring the wild Orihuela family that first delighted readers in Names I Call My Sister, weaves romance, history and a mystery into a humorous, touching and unforgettable story.
Dori Orihuela is in a funk. Relieved from police duty while recovering from a gunshot wound, she has recurring nightmares of the incident that got her injured. What’s worse is she is overwhelmed by the amount of work required by a historical house that she has undertaken to restore, and her grandmother won’t get off her case about finding a husband. To prove her point, Dori’s grandmother hires a handsome contractor named Gavin, who turns out to be a boy that Dori had dumped years ago in high school. It’s enough to make her lose her mind. Or has she already lost her mind? Out of nowhere, the ghost of a man named Vicente appears to her and asks for her help. Her nightmares of the shooting are now compounded with visions of Vicente’s past and the tragedy that got him into the netherworld. Dori is truly convinced that she’s lost it.
After getting used to the idea of Vicente in her home, they develop a friendship that has Dori searching for answers to his questions. She gets busy trying to find out the history of the home, of Vicente and of the woman he has asked her to find for him. Things get complicated as Dori tries to juggle her commitment to helping Vicente, her responsibilities as a granddaughter and the sparks that start flying between her and Gavin. Learning about Vicente’s past and his great love for Anna helps Dori to realize how much she is missing in her own life.
Mary Castillo’s novel is a smart and often humorous portrayal of a strong and confident Hispanic woman trying to assert her independence while staying within the confines of her culture. Dori’s grandmother is a constant reminder of her responsibility first and foremost as a dutiful granddaughter and member of their family. Dori comes from a culture where respect for elders is still a high priority among family members. At the same time, Dori is not old fashioned nor conservative. She has a mind of her own and has prioritized her career instead of having a family. There is a constant clash between her and grandmother and their conversations are witty, sharp and downright engaging.
There is a strong cultural voice in this story that adds an interesting perspective to the book. Some readers may not be familiar with the life in a barrio or the plight of the Mexican people during the prohibition. Others may not fully understand the reason why Dori feels so compelled to make that regular appointment with her grandmother. The author had the difficult task of keeping the reader engaged by weaving Vicente’s story around that particular period. No matter what, Mary Castillo still succeeds at delivering the universal message of this book – that love transcends all times, all ages. If we focus on Vicente’s search for his beloved Anna and the lesson that Dori learns from a love that has survived even death, then we can look forward to more of Dori and Gavin in the very near future.
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