Christian

“The Rising” by Lynn Chandler Willis

 

Book Cover -The Rising

“The Rising,” by Lynn Chandler Willis, is the story of a baffling event that nobody – detectives, medical personnel, bystanders – can explain. A young child is found in an alley, apparently beaten to death. The crime scene is checked by a detective, and the lifeless, bloodied body is delivered to the hospital by ambulance.

 

After thirty minutes of testing for respiration, pulse, and brain wave activity, the ER physician pronounces the boy dead and has him moved to the morgue on a gurney. And yet, the next day, that same little boy walks into the morgue office with no bruises and no blood, wearing the toe tag on his foot, and asks to go to the bathroom.

 

Say what?

 

The Homicide Detective covering the case, Ellie Saunders, saw that the boy was dead. Everybody at the hospital saw that the boy was dead. And, now thirty hours later, he’s not.

 

Saunders and her partner are called in to investigate the (now) assault. The child does not know who he is or what happened to him and the hospital is labeling this a Lazarus Syndrome case – very rare and usually only linked to people who have ‘come-back-to-life’ after an hour or two. Unheard of after this long.

 

Saunders becomes obsessed with finding the boy’s family as well as the person that hurt him so badly. She is horrified at the fact that anyone could have done this to the child, and (without giving away the plot) wants to protect him from further insult or injury. Roadblocks are placed in Saunders way at many turns and as this unusual story unfolds, we are drawn into not only the investigation, but an exploration of faith vs science.

 

The supporting characters are fully fleshed out; a likably wacky morgue attendant, an assortment of interesting colleagues, quirky locals, caring as well as flirtatious doctors, reluctant witnesses, a supposedly lost love, an outspoken aunt, and an estranged preacher father. Saunders herself is complex, mostly in control of her actions and emotions until the case triggers memories of her troubled past. Those memories drive her to bend a few rules in her tenacious pursuit of the truth.

 

Willis’ depiction of the child is perfect. She draws on her considerable research with her own delightful family, but there’s another layer here that many writers miss when creating the children in their books. The child’s relationships and personality develop in a natural way through “The Rising,” revealing a combination of shyness, intelligence, appropriate language and reactions. Johnny Doe puts up with the adults’ questions for a bit and then his attention turns to trucks and coloring. Spot-on writing that will tug at your heart and remind you of a child you know. Willis also taps into an understanding of the unspoken messages that children reveal in their play, and makes that a part of the mystery that Saunders must solve.

 

Along the way, Saunders must come to terms with her own loss of faith and how it has impacted her decisions. Discussions with friends and family are not always welcome. Then, two parallel storylines merge nicely with the Johnny Doe case and Willis brings us home with an action packed, satisfying ending.

 

It’s easy to see whyThe Rising won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith-based Fiction in the mystery/romantic suspense/thriller category.

 

By the way, Johnny Doe’s fictional situation is an actual medical condition – Google ‘Lazarus Syndrome’ and read the real-life case studies.

 

Please visit www.lynnchandlerwillis.com for more information about Willis’ other books and upcoming events.

 

 

“Submerged” by Dani Pettrey

 

Book Cover - Submerged

Dani Pettrey’s debut Christian novel, “Submerged,” is set in the world of Alaskan dive rescue, a frequently dangerous profession. The book opens with what may be an engineered plane crash into the sea, off the coast of Tariuk Island. Cole McKenna’s team attempts a harrowing rescue, with a tragic outcome.

 

When one of the deaths turns out to be the aunt of a former girlfriend, Bailey Craig, life gets complicated. Aunt Agnes owned a popular Russian-American store in Yancey, where McKenna and his family have a dive shop. Bailey reluctantly returns to Yancey to sell her beloved aunt’s business, knowing that her own dicey past will be painful to relive once she sets foot there. She vows to take care of the estate and leave as soon as possible. But, her position as a Professor of Russian Studies uniquely qualifies her to help with a murder investigation that may be tied to sunken treasure and so much more.

 

As romantic suspense dictates, Cole and Bailey are drawn to each other again, afraid to trust, but now ten years older and wiser. Their interaction is aching and intense; yet as they are forced to work together to solve the mystery of the ‘why’ of the plane crash, we hope that Bailey comes to understand what true forgiveness means.

 

There is a noisy, active family support system for Cole that Bailey envies and never had – dumped on her aunt’s doorstep, unwanted by her mother. The dialogue flies back and forth as people drift through rooms at gatherings, interrupting each other, teasing each other – as it would be for any large family and their close friends who depend on each other and know each other so well. Pettrey captures that verbal chaos beautifully.

 

The book is a tight read with plenty of dialogue to advance the story and the action scenes. My ebook version seemed to be missing a few scattered transitional sentences that would have clarified when some scenes were ending, but those small omissions did not keep me from enjoying this multi-layered story of a Christian family caught up in some challenging circumstances. Cole’s faith is more developed than Bailey’s and Pettrey manages to convey that without getting preachy.

 

“Submerged” won the 2013 Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Colorado Romance Writers 2013 Award of Excellence in the Inspirational Category.

 

Readers who enjoy Dee Henderson’s books involving the O’Malley family might also enjoy Dani Pettrey’s ‘Alaskan Courage’ series. “Submerged” was followed by “Shattered,”  “Stranded,” and “Silenced.”  “Sabotaged” will be released in 2015. The personable McKennas are featured in each of the books.

 

For more information about Dani Pettrey and her work, please visit www.danipettrey.com.

 

 

10 of the Best Books of the Past Year

 

BookStack

...and the prize goes to...

Readers all over the world choose their next book based on the prizewinners announced by various organizations during the recent year. Here is a list of ten novels in the adult category to receive applause from colleagues in the genre or from readers who loved the books.

Have you read any books on the list? If so, let us know in the comment section what you enjoyed about them. 

 

Edgar Allen Poe Awards awarded by the Mystery Writers of America 2014:

“Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger

 

Hugo Awards awarded for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy 2013:

“Redshirts” by John Scalzi

 

Bram Stoker Awards bestowed by Horror Writers Association 2014:

“Doctor Sleep” (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

 

Man Booker Prize literary prize for best original English language novel 2013: 

“The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton

 

Pulitzer Prize in Literature administered by Columbia University 2014:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

 

National Book Award for fiction given to U.S. authors 2013:

“The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride

 

Anthony Awards, literary awards for mystery writers 2013:

“The Beautiful Mystery” by Louise Penny

 

RITA Award bestowed by the Romance Writers of America 2014:

“Off the Edge” by Carolyn Crane (Romantic Suspense)

 

Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction 2013:

“Rare Earth” by Davis Bunn (Suspense)

 

Goodreads Choice Awards chosen by readers 2013:

“And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini

 

Bravo to all the winners!

 

*Photo by Patti Phillips

 

 

“The Bride Collector” by Ted Dekker

 

Book cover - The Bride Collector

The villain in Ted Dekker’s “The Bride Collector,” is a schizophrenic who kidnaps beautiful women, drugs them, applies their makeup perfectly, arranges a veil over their heads, then glues them to a wall. Blood is drained from their bodies and even after four victims, no physical evidence has been found to point to the murderer. The FBI is involved and a forensic psychologist is called in.

 

The Special Agent on the case, Brad Raines, follows a clue from the scene of one of the murders to a mental facility ministering to the needs of a population of brilliant schizophrenics. (It is Dekker’s premise in the book that schizophrenics are locked away because they are misunderstood by society.) Raines speaks to several of the patients in the hope of finding out how the killer’s mind works.

 

Dekker, a NYT bestselling author of over twenty books dealing with the ‘good vs evil’ theme, explores the dark side of faith in “The Bride Collector.” Faith corrupted and expressed in the creepy musings of a mad man consumed with doing his twisted perception of the Lord’s work. Dekker takes the reader on a journey through the world of a criminally insane personality, a trip made fascinating because the killer has conflicting thoughts about sin and the rightness of his mission. We also enter the mental world of another disturbed person, who is well aware of her limitations and struggles constantly within the confines of her mind.

 

Dekker is frequently described as being ‘out there’ when compared with other Christian writers. His work is unsettling and asks the reader to explore why unspeakable things happen to good people. A recurring theme of his: “How can our faith remain in the wake of such awful events?”

 

Both the mental institution storyline and the romantic interest that develops in “The Bride Collector” are far-fetched, but the book does have the intensity of a TV crime show. Interesting enough to hold my attention while the killer was caught, and Dekker fans loved it.

 

For information about Ted Dekker and his work, visit www.teddekker.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Violet Dawn” by Brandilyn Collins

 

Book Cover - Violet Dawn

Don’t read the first chapter of “Violet Dawn” if you plan on stepping into your hot-tub in the middle of the night. You might not ever get into it again unless there are floodlights blazing on the deck.

 

Imagine:  a touch, a brush aside of something annoying and ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU REALIZE YOU’RE IN A HOT TUB WITH…” Shriek!!!!! – The scene Collins has written would be a delicious opening for a movie.  (Play ‘Psycho’ music here)

 

Collins’ loyal following has put her on the bestseller list with several faith-based series. “Violet Dawn” is the first in her Kanner Lake group, featuring a small town reminiscent of TVs Cabot Cove – where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but whose residents also stand ready to help when life takes a downturn. The Kanner Lake population seems unfriendly at first, but then we get to know the quirky regulars at the Java Joint and realize that our initial impressions have been filtered through Paige Williams’ eyes, a young woman with a complex past. Paige’s background drives her distinctly odd behavior at the beginning of the book, and Collins keeps the readers’ interest as that past is revealed, a bit at a time, against the backdrop of a missing persons search and then, murder investigation.

 

Although new in town, Paige has the support of both her boss and the owner of the Java Joint when the murder investigation points to her. A fame-seeking reporter finds her humanity and plays a pivotal role in “Violet Dawn.” An honest Chief of Police keeps digging until the truth is revealed. Each of the characters has a story of his/her own to tell and it seems clear that they will be more fully developed as the series continues.

 

The main villain, Black Mamba, slithered through his scenes in a satisfyingly sinister way. The character was a bit over the top at times in comparison with the rest of Kanner Lake people, but he works as a stark contrast between decent townspeople and the creeps who would do us harm.

 

By the way, if I ever buy a hot tub, it’s going to have a transparent cover!

 

Titles from the Kanner Lake series: “Coral Moon,” “Crimson Eve,” and “Amber Moon.”

Collins’ work is sometimes grouped with Christian fiction; other times with cozies.

 

For more about Collins and “Seatbelt Suspense,” visit www.brandilyncollins.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Unlikely Praise” by Carla Rossi

 

Book Cover - Unlikely Praise

 

“Unlikely Praise” features Candi Canaberry, a terrific musician who leads the Praise & Worship team in a small, but growing, evangelical Texas church. She is a Worship Leader with lots of rules, a teacher at the local college, always dresses in skirts or suits, wears high heels even though they hurt, and she likes to be in control of every aspect of her life.

 

Pastor Charles is like a father figure to Candi and wishes to prepare for the growth that will occur when the church building expansion is complete. The Pastor knows that Candi will need help with her mounting duties and that she would never ask for it, so he invites someone new to the congregation to help out. One problem. The Pastor neglects to tell Candi and she feels her leadership role in the church is being threatened.

 

Candi wants to follow God’s plan for the church as well as for her life, except that the ‘new guy’ is former rock star, Samuel Blackledge, who arrives complete with long hair, tattoos, holey jeans, and musical expertise grounded in years on the road.

 

Hmmm…did someone say ‘oil and water’?

 

In addition to the obvious style clash, both musically and personally, they both have secrets. The Pastor knows the secrets, but lets them deal with telling each other – with occasional nudging.

 

In a clever nod to the role of technology in the modern church, Rossi begins the chapters with emails from the Pastor, communicating to Candi and Sam his grand plans for everything from music competitions to youth ministries. The two musicians are not completely comfortable with the ever-growing ‘to-do’ lists, but each has trust in God to show the way.

 

“Unlikely Praise” is a faith-based book, with some serious, very current, occasionally funny, topics at its core. Rossi’s novel peeks at behind the scenes church dynamics, with a Pastor that has to balance disparate gifted members of the congregation, a Worship Leader who works hard to bring out the best in her quirky talented band, and a handsome newcomer/outsider thrown into the mix.

 

There are no murders, but “Unlikely Praise” is a book about second chances and forgiveness for serious past mistakes, with a little romance and mystery thrown in. Some of those mistakes? Out-of-wedlock children, embezzlement, jail time, and drugs. Rossi’s Pastor Charles Littleton challenges Candi and Sam to act out their faith, not just give it lip service.

 

Please visit www.carlarossi.com for more information about Rossi and her other books.

 

 

“Proof” by Jordyn Redwood

Book Cover - Proof Lilly Reeves is an ER doctor who chooses to live alone. She stays in shape, attends martial arts classes, owns a gun, and has three locks on her front door. She is a caring doctor, good at her job, and well liked by her colleagues. She has a close friend and a nice guy who wants to date her. None of that prevents her from being attacked and raped in her own home. And she may be the fifth victim of a serial rapist.  

She accidently discovers the identity of her attacker at work, but when she makes her accusations, DNA testing proves her wrong and she in turn, is accused of being unstable. Even her friends begin to doubt her sanity. At first, Reeves thinks she has it all together, that she will be fine as soon as the rapist is behind bars. But, that is far from reality.  

There are multiple twists and turns as the rapist proves to be more cold-blooded than anybody could have imagined. Reeves speeds ever downward, trapped in her despair and acts of self-destruction. Her friends, along with the policeman assigned to the case, do their best to help, but Reeves doesn’t want to be helped, especially when the worst news possible is revealed. This is a faith-based book, with a Christian perspective as how best to handle the many issues that arise, but to Redwood’s credit, the true-to-life discussions have non-believer Dr. Reeves standing firm, several times.  

“Proof” is a debut novel, but compares favorably with more established medical thrillers. ER procedures as well as difficult deliveries are meticulously written, yet easy to read. The medical oddity that identifies the killer is well-researched and thoroughly fascinating. The lead characters are fully developed and realistically supportive. “Proof” does not shy away from the subject, but it does not actually contain a violent re-enactment of the rape. Rather, it is an absorbing study in how a woman and the people who surround her, deal with the challenging aftermath of that rape. This is an honest, Christian look at a serious problem.  

The Twitterverse is a terrific place to discover new authors. I ‘met’ Jordyn Redwood because of her blog, “Redwood’s Medical Edge.” Jordyn is an ER nurse who created the blog in order to help authors write correctly about medical details in their work. On Fridays, many writers/reviewers on Twitter share a heads-up about good research sources; Redwood’s column is an excellent place to find great information about life in an ER. In addition to doing her own columns, she has guest bloggers who address certain areas of interest related to the medical field, as varied as Civil War medicine and neonatal emergencies. Great blog.  

“Proof” is the first in the ‘Bloodline Trilogy,’ and was nominated for the Carol Award. The second book in the series, “Poison,” was released on February 1, 2013.  

For more information, please visit www.jordynredwood.com