Bottom line: A realistic mystery that is well worth reading.
Mystery and suspense combine in this first book in an exciting new 4-book series by best-selling author Terri Blackstock. Thelma and Wayne Owens run a bed and breakfast in Cape Refuge, Georgia. They minister to the seamen on the nearby docks and prisoners just out of nearby jails, holding services in an old warehouse and taking many of the ‘down-and-outers’ into their home. They have two daughters: the dutiful Morgan who is married to Jonathan, a fisherman, and helps them out at the B & B, and Blair, the still-single town librarian, who would be beautiful if it weren’t for the serious scar on the side of her face.
After a heated, public argument with his in-laws, Jonathan discovers Thelma and Wayne murdered in the warehouse where they held their church services. Considered the prime suspect, Jonathan is arrested. Grief-stricken, Morgan and Blair launch their own investigation to help Matthew Cade, the town’s young police chief, find the real killer. Shady characters and a raft of suspects keep the plot twisting and the suspense building as we learn not only who murdered Thelma and Wayne, but also the secrets about their family’s past and the true reason for Blair’s disfigurement.
It has been a while since I’ve started a mystery that compelled me to finish it. Despite having some characters that irritated me, and the frequent point of view changes between five or so main characters, I found myself really caring about them, and rooting for them all the way through (even the ones I occasionally wanted to shake – Jonathan, I’m looking at you here.) I thought the book could have done with some slimming down in spots – there were a couple of places it seemed like the characters should have caught on well before they did.
But overall, as I said, I found it compelling. It was a frighteningly believable story, and I found myself suffering with the helplessness of the main characters as it feels like all is crashing down around them. What do you do when it seems like everyone is against you? In a small, isolated town, where only a few people are in power and they all know each other, that can create a dangerous dynamic.
I also liked how the author was able to create scenarios with tension and danger, without relying on completely implausible set ups, such as a middle aged woman singlehandedly barging in to a biker bar to confront the bad guy who could eat her for lunch. (Side note: on kboards, a forum I sometimes hang out on, I learned about an acronym for just such heroines – TSTL, or Too Stupid To Live. I thought that was hilarious.)
It features Christian themes pretty heavily throughout, but it was done in a way that made sense in the story – in fact I thought that part was exceptionally well handled. So, apart from a few quibbles with the pacing and one or two of the characters being annoying (though in a very realistic way, which was perhaps why I found them so annoying – these are people that would irritate me in real life, too) it was a very enjoyable read. Well, enjoyable in the traditional mystery sense of “I need to figure out who did it and what is going to happen to the characters now!”
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