Christina Dodd’s latest contemporary suspense, Thigh High, takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans during Mardi Gras, so as a reader, I felt immediately drawn into the story. How would the city be portrayed? Its citizens? The Mardi Gras celebrations? Would Dodd address any of the political issues still swirling around the disaster there? The answer to the latter is a resounding no, but Dodd still manages to create the image of a lively city, fallen but not broken, and steadily regaining its feet.
Nessa Dahl is practically New Orleans royalty, her family having lived there for centuries. She and her two great-aunts share Dahl house with a number of boarders, taken on to help pay the bills. Nessa herself works in a bank, keeping it running smoothly and without error, but stopped from advancement by an error early in her career and her obnoxious boss.
The chain of banks that Nessa works for has a claim to fame: every year, during Mardi Gras celebrations, it is paid a visit by the notorious Beaded Bandits. The Bandits appear once a year – every year – dressed in drag, and steal a token amount before disappearing for another year. For those who live in the city, the Bandits have been absorbed as yet another example of Mardi Gras eccentricity, but for the bank’s president, Mac MacNaught, they are thieves, plain and simple, and need to be stopped. He decides to travel south himself, in the guise of an investigator, to catch them – and Nessa Dahl, who is surely involved.
Dodd created a really nice dichotomy here, with the gruff, socially inadequate, frank Mac, and the poised, calm, gracious Nessa. The relationship builds against their wills, and they certainly have problems to overcome, but the sparks that fly are a joy to read.
During the course of the novel, there was only a small little hitch in what was otherwise lovely characterization – when Nessa declares her love for Mac, I was unsure if she she really meant it, which made the following scenes slightly unsettling. However, the author regained control quickly. Readers like me will adore the diamond ring scene.
This was a truly enjoyable novel right up until the very last page. There Dodd managed to ruin the warm and fuzzy feelings by throwing an unnecessary wrench into what had not even been a subplot, by introducing four new characters – obviously heroes in subsequent books.
I don’t know if we can blame Dodd for this clumsy ending – after all, we know the publishers love a marketing opportunity – but this read like an advertisement, and cast an unhappy shadow over the whole story. I still want to recommend this novel, because it is a lot of fun. But I further my recommendation with this – do your best to stop at page 381.