Voices Past and Present in ‘Lost in the Light’

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In “Lost in the Light,” Det. Dori Orihuela just wanted to lose herself in the renovation of her 100-year-old house as she recovered from a traumatic officer-involved shooting. Too bad the otherworldly inhabitants of the house in National City, CA, had other plans.

After witnessing a horrifyingly brutal murder take place in her own front room, Dori was equally horrified to realize the murder she saw with her own two eyes happened 80 years ago, and feared she may be losing her mind.

The victim, Vicente Sorolla, a prohibition era bootlegger, died in Dori’s house, and is now hanging around, looking for help to discover what happened to his true love, Anna, and whether she escaped the same foul fate that befell him. He needs to know the truth so that he can leave the middle-world he has been trapped in for so long, and finally cross over into the afterlife.

Full of larger-than-life members of Dori’s crazy Mexican-American family, including her smart-mouthed, no-nonsense Grammy, this tale is part historical mystery, part self-discovery journey, and part family drama, with a hint of romance thrown in for good measure.

Local author, Mary Castillo, who first introduced readers to the Orihuela family in her novella, “Till Death Do Us Part,” published as part of the anthology “Names I Call My Sister,” knows from whence she speaks. She herself grew up in a haunted house in National City, and has a few feisty leaves on her own Mexican-American family tree. In fact, her Aunt Irma accused her of stealing her best material to use for the character of Grammy Cena!

Castillo’s first foray into the writing world happened when she was in just the third grade, and received an assignment to turn her favorite fairy tale into a book. I suppose you could say the writing bug bit her then, but it wasn’t until she found herself at a crossroads some years later that it became her life’s work.

As a pre-med student at USC, her lack-luster Chemistry grades were proving that a future in medicine may not be for her, and she was forced to reconsider what she wanted to do with her life. As she pondered not only on what she loved, but also what she was good at, she came back around to writing. 18 years, and seven books later, and I’d say she made the right call.

I asked Castillo why she picked this particular setting to tell her story. She replied that she felt the 1920s were a writer’s gold mine, and had this to say:

“The 1920s were a time in history that was at complete odds with itself. When I was considering ‘Lost in the Light,’ the story of a skeptical woman who befriends a ghost, I knew this ghost would be from the turbulent ’20s.”

“I wanted to take Prohibition out of Chicago and New York, where it is typically set in books and movies, and see what it was like out here in California. It turned out that folks misbehaved just as much out here as they did on the East Coast”

After having read “Lost in the Light,” I can attest to her wisdom. It was indeed fertile ground in which to weave a story, and I found myself wanting more.

While we learned the truth about Vicente’s story, we only just scratched the surface of Dori Orihuela. Lucky for us readers, there is another installment still to come. Ms. Castillo assured me that although she has another project currently in the works, readers can look forward to the next Dori Orihuela novel in late 2013 or early 2014.

That should give you plenty of time to check out “Lost in the Light,” available in both paperback and ebook formats, and bring yourself up to speed.

For more information, or to purchase, please visit www.marycastillo.com

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