The Reverend Corina Youngblood, minister of the African Spiritual Church of Mercy, is a woman powered by Jesus and the santos. Her corner store, St. Jude Lamb of Light Botanica, which caters to the eclectic religious and spiritual needs of New Orleans, is threatened by her Cuban ex-lover and mentor Elroy Delgago's plans to open a K-mart-like Superbotanica nearby. Gus Houston, a displaced former army officer now ersatz chaplain at an exclusive girl's school, stumbles into Corina's store, discovers her mesmerizing powers, and strikes up a profitable and prophetic relationship, sending Corina his troubled students for consultation. When Gus hits on the idea of entering the wealthy white girls into the gospel singing competition during the Jazzfest, he triggers a series of events that has all sides evoking the spirits for good and ill. Davis combines religion, voodoo, New Age philosophy, and good old-fashioned capitalism, greed, envy and a host of other unsavory motives in his entertaining first novel.
First-time novelist Davis captures the essence of New Orleans with a blend of voodoo, gangsters and, of course, plenty of jazz and gospel music. Corina Youngblood is a self-styled black priestess whose freewheeling but stern spiritual readings have earned her a formidable reputation in the community. But Youngblood faces stiff competition from the Delgado brothers, Cuban immigrants who want to commercialize voodoo-related products by opening a chain of stores called SuperBotanicas. To help them along, the Delgados turn to a corrupt local politician named Joe Dell Prince, who provides the environmental permit they need as he pumps up his own visibility for a run at the governor's office. But if the Delgados have Prince, Corina has Gus Houston in her corner, a chaplain at Miss Angelique's Academy for Young Ladies who lied his way into the job (his "last meaningful employment had been night manager at a Tennessee theme park") because he was smitten with the headmaster. In an effort to get the privileged, petulant teenagers out of his hair, Houston starts referring them to Corina, who's soon raking it in. She also inspires Gus to organize the girls into a gospel choir, setting the stage for a climax filled with mayhem at the New Orleans Jazzfest. Davis nails the complicated racial and religious stew that makes up bayou culture, and his witty, fast style perfectly complements the clever premise.