Characters can make or break a novel. It is my opinion that unlikable characters can completely ruin a book no matter how well-written the plot is, but wonderful characters can make a book mesmerizing even if the story is mediocre. Not that the story is mediocre in Out of the Easy because it's not. But it doesn't have a very linear plot. It's not all that mysterious and/or riveting as I expected it to be. But the characters? Well, they make this novel. I felt very similar about this novel as I did about Sharon Cameron's The Dark Unwinding. That book didn't have the most exciting plot either. But I fell in love with the characters just like I did with the ones in this novel. There's something about endearing senior citizens in books that always manages to warm my heart. In this book, the name of the character is Willie. It's funny because from the way Willie is introduced in the book you would never know it. But she grows on you. I never thought I would say that I grew a huge heart for a brothel madam, but I did. The two love interests (sort of) in the book were similarly well-developed and incredibly likable. I wouldn't say there was a love triangle though, and despite the fact there are two boys vying for the protagonist's affections, romance is not the main focus in this book at all.Instead, there is a mystery to solve. But this is kind of where I ran into problems with the book. Because the plot wasn't all that riveting and neither was the mystery. It was interesting enough, but there are really no surprises here. I figured out who committed the murder pretty much from the very beginning and it's not all that shocking. But the main reason this wasn't a 5 star read for me was because I felt the book lacked a focus. What WAS the main point here? Was it the mystery? Was it the relationships? Was it the crappy mother-daughter relationship? Not sure. Everything about the book lacked focus. What you need to know is that Josie hates New Orleans. She has a very unstable and dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Her mom is a prostitute at a brothel on Conti Street run by a madam named Willie who ends up being quite the character. Josie works at a used bookshop in the city and she wants to go to college more than anything, but with the way her mother is, any dreams Josie has she has to make come true on her own. A man comes into the bookshop and then that very same evening, something very bad happens. And that's where our story truly begins. But it doesn't because it's not all that much of a mystery. Meh. I don't know what else to say. The writing was interesting and I liked the way it was styled, but I almost felt it was too simple, and for a setting like New Orleans, I certainly expected it to be more atmospheric than it was. I can say that I really loved the voice of Josie and felt her character was brilliantly rendered. So in the end, I was left feeling a bit confused. I expected to be blown away by this book and I was highly anticipating it, but I was let down a little bit. I liked it enough and I do think it will find an audience, but alas it was not what I expected it to be. I think it is important to mention that this book made me sob my freaking eyes out at the end. There is something that comes up that I found incredibly shocking and didn't see it coming though I suppose I should have now in hindsight. Still, in the moment it caught me by surprise. Do I recommend it? I guess. With reservations. If you like really strong characters, I think you will enjoy the novel. But if you are looking for a plot that keeps you turning pages late into the night, I'd give this one a pass.