Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wolves Among Us by Ginger Garrett

This richly imagined tale takes readers to a tiny German town in the time of “the burnings,” when pious and heretic alike became victims of witch-hunting zealots. When a double murder stirs up festering fears, the village priest sends for help. But the charismatic Inquisitor who answers the call brings a deadly mix of spiritual fervor and self-deceptive evil. Under his influence, village fear, guilt, and suspicion of women take a deadly turn. In the midst of this nightmare, a doubting priest and an unloved wife—a secret friend of the recently martyred William Tyndale—somehow manage to hear another Voice…and discover the power of love over fear.

Dinfoil, Germany, 1538. In a little town on the edge of the Black Forest, a double murder stirs up festering fears. A lonely woman despairs of pleasing her husband and wonders why other women shun her. An overworked sheriff struggles to hold the town—and himself—together. A priest begins to doubt the power of the words he shares daily with his flock. And the charismatic Inquisitor who arrives to help—with a filthy witch in a cage as an object lesson—brings his own mix of lofty ideals and treacherous evil. Under his influence, ordinary village fears and resentments take a deadly turn. Terror mounts. Dark deeds come to light. And men and women alike discover not only what they are capable of, but who they are…and what it means to grapple for grace.

My Review:
Shades of Salem Witch Trials! This historic novel so scared me, that I actually had to put it down and walk away. Of course, I did pick it back up and finish reading it. I am so very thankful that I live in the 21st Century and not the 16th.

I quickly connected to the protagonist, Mia, and her sickly child, Alma. What a heavy load of problems Mia bears. She's married to hard-to-please Bjorn, the stern sheriff and cares for his bedridden mother. Even the ladies of the small village shun her. This gives Mia a very lonely existence. I hurt for her. As the plot unfolds, I feared for her.

An extensive Author's Note section, along with Discussion Questions and Supernatural Housekeeping are all included at the end of the novel.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and David C. Cook for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

False Pretenses by Kathy Herman

Secrets of Roux River Bayou

Zoe Broussard loves the life she and her husband Pierce have built in her beloved Louisiana hometown—especially their popular brasserie Zoe B’s, to which folks drive all the way from Lafayette for lunch or dinner. It seems like heaven.

But it’s about to become hell. A series of anonymous notes is making her life a misery—because Zoe has a secret so terrible it could leave the business in shambles and tear her marriage apart. Can she find the courage to face her past?

The first in a new series from Kathy Herman, False Pretenses is a gripping suspense novel that leaves a lasting impression about honesty and accountability

My Review:
This book shouts "Louisiana!" It makes me feel as if I've visited Louisiana. I've experienced the talk, met some residents, and enjoyed the food. What a neat way to travel!

The protagonist, Zoe, is living a lie, and as happens with most lies, they catch up with her. Intertwined is a lynching, a mystery stalker, and the suspicion of a ghost!

A Discussion Guide is included, making this a good book club read.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and David C. Cook for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vicious Cycle by Terri Blackstock

An Intervention Novel

When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of a car, he knows she's the newborn daughter of a meth addict he's been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse. His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan-the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own.

Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies. In this latest novel of suspense and family loyalty, bestselling author Terri Blackstock offers a harrowing look at drug addiction, human trafficking, and the devastating choices that can change lives forever.

My Review:
Whew! I've just finished reading this terrific book, and now I can breathe! (I found that as I flipped the pages, I was actually holding my breath.) The author had me at the first sentence and kept my attention all the way through until the satisfying end.

Written in third person by each of the characters helps make this an easy-to-read thriller. Each character has a voice, and the reader is able to understand his/her thinking process. I feel as if I got inside the minds of meth addicts--not a good place. I certainly learned a good deal about the addiction.

I enjoyed watching the solutions to the various crimes, as well as the romance blooming. Some of the characters realistically struggle with the questions: "Why does God allow this?" and "Does He even know I exist?" Sound biblical answers are given.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Zondervan for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

The Third Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon

Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh's investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor. As Hugh's pursuit of Kate becomes more successful, mysterious accidents begin to occur. Are these accidents tied to the missing books, or to his pursuit of Kate?

One of the stolen books turns up alongside the drowned body of a poor Oxford scholar. Another accident? Hugh certainly doesn't think so, but it will take all of his surgeon's skills to prove.

So begins another delightful and intriguing tale from the life of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon in the medieval village of Bampton. Masterfully researched by medieval scholar Mel Starr, the setting of the novel can be visited and recognized in modern-day England. Enjoy more of Hugh's dry wit, romantic interests, evolving faith, and dogged determination as he pursues his third case as bailiff of Bampton.

My Review:
I love, love, l❤ve this series! We immediately discover that none other than John Wyclif, friend of the protagonist, Hugh of Singleton, a surgeon and bailiff to Lord Gilbert Talbotx, has had all twenty-two of his books stolen!

The characters, written in depth, are based on some historical facts and are all quite believable. Written in the first person narrative of Hugh, a master sleuth, the dialogue is a delight. The author has researched medieval England extensively and creates a plausible plot.

There's romance for Hugh, some interesting surgeries, and even murder most foul. (Forgive me for stealing Shakespeare's words!) In addition, there's subtle humor. For instance, when describing Sir Roger, a man with bushy eyebrows, the author writes, "On a bright day Sir Roger carries with him his own shade" (200).

Master Hugh solves the puzzle like any good detective. He notes the clues and follows up on his hunches--all the while tending to his duties as the only available surgeon and pursuing the lovely Kate. I like reading about his day-to-day experiences. Quite interesting to me is learning about the practice of medicine and courting during this time.

I read the other two titles in the series: The Unquiet Bones, and The Corpse at St. Andrews Chapel, loved them both and looked forward to reading this third in the series. All are stand alone novels, and you'll have no problem catching on. However, if you've read the other two, you will enjoy picking up where the second novel ends with Hugh seeking to wed.

An glossary and a map of the area are included. All in all, this is a delightful book, and I recommend this to one and all! I look forward to the fourth in the series.

Thank you to FirstWildCard and Noelle Pedersen at Kregel for my copy.

And now, the first chapter:

I had never seen Master John Wyclif so afflicted. He was rarely found at such a loss when in disputation with other masters. He told me later, when I had returned them to him, that it was as onerous to plunder a bachelor scholar’s books as it would be to steal another man’s wife. I had, at the time, no way to assess the accuracy of that opinion, for I had no wife and few books.

But I had come to Oxford on that October day, Monday, the twentieth, in the year of our Lord 1365, to see what progress I might make to remedy my solitary estate. I left my horse at the stable behind the Stag and Hounds and went straightaway to Robert Caxton’s shop, where the stationer’s comely daughter, Kate, helped attract business from the bachelor scholars, masters, clerks, and lawyers who infest Oxford like fleas on a hound.

My pretended reason to visit Caxton’s shop was to purchase a gathering of parchment and a fresh pot of ink. I needed these to conclude my record of the deaths of Alan the beadle and of Henry atte Bridge. Alan’s corpse was found, three days before Good Friday, near to St Andrew’s Chapel, to the east of Bampton. And Henry, who it was who slew Alan, was found in a wood to the north of the town. As bailiff of Bampton Castle it was my business to sort out these murders, which I did, but not before I was attacked on the road returning from Witney and twice clubbed about the head in nocturnal churchyards. Had I known such assaults lay in my future, I might have rejected Lord Gilbert Talbot’s offer to serve as his bailiff at Bampton Castle and remained but Hugh the surgeon, of Oxford High Street.

Kate promised to prepare a fresh pot of ink, which I might have next day, and when she quit the shop to continue her duties in the workroom I spoke to her father. Robert Caxton surely knew the effect Kate had upon young men. He displayed no surprise when I asked leave to court his daughter.

I had feared raised eyebrows at best, and perhaps a refusal. I am but a surgeon and a bailiff. Surgeons own little prestige in Oxford, full of physicians as it is, and few honest men wish to see a daughter wed to a bailiff. There were surely sons of wealthy Oxford burghers, and young masters of the law, set on a path to wealth, who had eyes for the comely Kate. But Caxton nodded agreement when I requested his permission to pay court to his daughter. Perhaps my earlier service to mend his wounded back helped my suit.

I left the stationer’s shop with both joy and apprehension. The joy you will understand, or would had you seen Kate and spent time in her presence. I was apprehensive because next day I must begin a thing for which I had no training and in which I had little experience. While at Balliol College I was too much absorbed in my set books to concern myself with the proper way to impress a lass, and none of those volumes dealt with the subject. Certainly the study of logic avoided the topic. Since then my duties as surgeon and bailiff allowed small opportunity to practice discourse with a maiden. And there are few females of my age and station in Bampton.

I made my way from Caxton’s shop on Holywell Street to Catte Street and thence to the gate of Canterbury Hall, on Schidyard Street. As I walked I composed speeches in my mind with which I might impress Kate Caxton. I had forgotten most of these inventions by next day. This was just as well.

Master John Wyclif, former Master of Balliol College and my teacher there, was newly appointed Warden of Canterbury Hall. Several months earlier, frustrated at my inability to discover who had slain Alan the beadle and Henry atte Bridge, I had called upon Master John to lament my ignorance and seek his wisdom. He provided encouragement, and an empty chamber in the Hall where I might stay the night, safe from the snores and vermin at the Stag and Hounds.

When I left him those months earlier he enjoined me to call when I was next in Oxford and tell him of the resolution of these mysteries. At the time of his request I was not sure there ever would be a resolution to the business.

But there was, and so I sought Master John to tell him of it, and seek again his charity and an empty cell for the night. The porter recognized me, and sent me to Master John’s chamber. I expected to find him bent over a book, as was his usual posture when I called. But not so. He opened the door to my knock, recognized me, and blurted, “Master Hugh… they’ve stolen my books.”

The greeting startled me. I peered over the scholar’s shoulder as if I expected to see the miscreants and the plundered volumes. I saw Master John’s table, and a cupboard where his books were kept. Both were bare. He turned to follow my gaze.

“Gone,” he whispered. “All of them.”

“Who?” I asked stupidly. Had Master John known that, he would have set after the thieves and recovered the books. Or sent the sheriff to do so.

“I know not,” Wyclif replied. “I went to my supper three days past. When I returned the books were gone… even the volume I left open on my table.”

Master John is not a wealthy man. He has the living of Fillingham, and the prebend of Aust, but these provide a thin subsistence for an Oxford master of arts at work on a degree in theology. The loss of books accumulated in a life of study would be a blow to any scholar, rich or poor.

“The porter saw no stranger enter or leave the Hall while we supped,” Wyclif continued. “I went next day to the sheriff, but Sir John has other matters to mind.”

“Sir John?”

“Aye. Roger de Cottesford is replaced. The new high sheriff is Sir John Trillowe.”

“He offered no aid?”

“He sent a sergeant ’round to the stationers in the town, to see did any man come to them with books he offered to sell. Two I borrowed from Nicholas de Redyng. He will grieve to learn they are lost.”

“And the stationers… they have been offered no books?”

“None of mine missing. And Sir John has no interest, I think, in pursuing my loss further.”

The colleges have always wished to rule themselves, free of interference from the town and its government. No doubt the sheriff was minded to allow Canterbury Hall the freedom to apprehend its own thief, without his aid or interference.

“How many?”

“My books? Twenty… and the two borrowed.”

I performed some mental arithmetic. Master John read my thoughts.

“The books I borrowed from Master Nicholas… one was Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica, worth near thirty shillings. One of mine was of paper, a cheap-set book, but the others were of parchment and well bound.”

“Your loss is great, then. Twenty pounds or more.”

“Aye,” Wyclif sighed. “Four were of my own devising. Some might say they were worth little. But the others… Aristotle, Grossteste, Boethius, all gone.”

Master John sighed again, and gazed about his chamber as if the stolen books were but misplaced, and with closer inspection of dark corners might yet be discovered.

“I am pleased to see you,” Master John continued. “I had thought to send for you.”

“For me?”

“Aye. I have hope that you will seek my stolen books and see them returned to me.”

“Me? Surely the sheriff…”

“Sir John is not interested in any crime for which the solution will not bring him a handsome fine. Rumor is he paid King Edward sixty pounds for the office. He will be about recouping his investment, not seeking stolen books.

“And you are skilled at solving mysteries,” Wyclif continued. “You found who ’twas in Lord Gilbert’s cesspit, and unless I mistake me, you know by now who killed your beadle and the fellow found slain in the forest. Well, do you not?”

“Aye. It was as I thought. Henry atte Bridge, found dead in the wood, slew Alan the beadle. Alan had followed him during the night as Henry took a haunch of venison poached from Lord Gilbert’s forest, to the curate at St Andrew’s Chapel.”

“Venison? To a priest?”

“Aye… a long story.”

“I have nothing but time, and no books with which to fill it. Tell me.”

So I told Master John of the scandal of the betrayed confessional of the priest at St Andrew’s Chapel. And of the blackmail he plotted with Henry atte Bridge – and Henry’s brother, Thomas – of those who confessed to poaching, adultery, and cheating at their business.

“I came to Oxford this day to buy more ink and parchment so I may write of these felonies while details remain fresh in my memory.”

“And what stationer receives your custom?”

“Robert Caxton. It was you who sent me first to Caxton’s shop. You knew I would find more there than books, ink, and parchment.”

“I did? Yes, I remember now telling you of the new stationer, come from Cambridge with his daughter… ah, that is your meaning. I am slow of wit these days. I think of nothing but my books.”

“You did not guess I might be interested in the stationer’s daughter?”

“Nay,” Wyclif grimaced. “I surprise myself for my lack of perception. You are a young man with two good eyes. The stationer’s daughter…”

“Kate,” I said.

“Aye, Kate is a winsome lass.”

“She is. And this day I have gained her father’s permission to seek her as my wife.”

Master John’s doleful expression brightened. The corners of his mouth and eyes lifted into a grin. “I congratulate you, Hugh.”

“Do not be too quick to do so. I must woo and win her, and I fear for my ability.”

“I have no competency in such matters. You are on your own. ’Tis your competency solving puzzles I seek.”

“But I am already employed.”

Master John’s countenance fell. “I had not considered that,” he admitted. “Lord Gilbert requires your service… and pays well for it, I imagine.”

“Aye. I am well able to afford a wife.”

“But could not the town spare you for a week or two, until my books are found? Surely a surgeon… never mind. You see how little I heed other men’s troubles when I meet my own.”

“All men think first of themselves. Why should you be different?” I asked.

“Why? Because my misplaced esteem tells me I must. Do you not wish the same, Hugh? To be unlike the commons? They scratch when and where they itch and belch when and where they will and the letters on a page are as foreign to them as Malta.”

“But… I remember a lecture…”

Wyclif grimaced.

“… when you spoke of all men being the same when standing before God. No gentlemen, no villeins, all sinners.”

“Hah; run through by my own pike. ’Tis true. I recite the same sermon each year, but though we be all sinners, and all equally in need of God’s grace, all sins are not, on earth, equal, as they may be in God’s eyes. Else all punishments would be the same, regardless of the crime.”

“And what would be a fitting penalty for one who stole twenty books?”

Wyclif scowled again. “Twenty-two,” he muttered. “My thoughts change daily,” he continued. “When I first discovered the offense I raged about the Hall threatening the thief with a noose.”

“And now?”

Master John smiled grimly. “I have thought much on that. Was the thief a poor man needing to keep his children from starvation, I might ask no penalty at all, so long as my books be returned. But if the miscreant be another scholar, with means to purchase his own books, I would see him fined heavily and driven from Oxford, and never permitted to study here again, or teach, be he a master.

“Both holy and secular wisdom,” Wyclif mused, “teach that we must not do to another what we find objectionable when done to us. No man should hold a place at Oxford who denies both God and Aristotle.”

“You think an Oxford man has done this?”

Wyclif chewed upon a fingernail, then spoke. “Who else would want my books, or know their worth?”

“That, it seems to me, is the crux of the matter,” I replied. “Some scholar wished to add to his library, or needed money, and saw your books as a way to raise funds.”

As it happened, there was a third reason a man might wish to rob Master John of his books, but that explanation for the theft did not occur to me until later.

“I am lost,” Wyclif sighed. “I am a master with no books, and I see no way to retrieve them.”

I felt guilty that, for all his aid given to me, I could offer no assistance to the scholar. I could but commiserate, cluck my tongue, and sit in his presence with a long face.

The autumn sun set behind the old Oxford Castle keep while we talked. Wyclif was about to speak again when a small bell sounded from across the courtyard.

“Supper,” he explained, and invited me to follow him to the refectory.

Scholars at Canterbury Hall are fed well, but simply. For this supper there were loaves of maslin – wheat and barley – cheese, a pease pottage flavored with bits of pork, and tankards of watered ale. I wondered at the pork, for some of the scholars were Benedictines. Students peered up from under lowered brows as we entered. They all knew of the theft, and, I considered later, suspected each other of complicity in the deed.

A watery autumn sun struggled to rise above the forest and water meadow east of Oxford when I awoke next morning. Wyclif bid me farewell with stooped shoulders and eyes dark from lack of sleep. I wished the scholar well, and expressed my prayer that his books be speedily recovered. Master John believes in prayer, but my promise to petition our Lord Christ on his behalf seemed to bring him small comfort. I think he would rather have my time and effort than my prayers. Or would have both. Prayers may be offered cheaply. They require small effort from men, and much from God. The Lord Christ has told us we may ask of Him what we will, but I suspect He would be pleased to see men set to their work, and call upon Him only when tasks be beyond them.

I thought on this as I walked through the awakening lanes of Oxford to Holywell Street and Robert Caxton’s shop. Was it really my duty to Lord Gilbert which prevented me from seeking Wyclif’s stolen books, or was I too slothful to do aught but pray for their return? I did not like the answer which came to me.

As I approached the stationer’s shop I saw a tall young man standing before it, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. The fellow was no scholar. He wore a deep red cotehardie, cut short to show a good leg. His chauces were parti-colored, grey and black, and his cap ended in a long yellow liripipe coiled stylishly about his head. The color of his cap surprised me. All who visit London know that the whores of that city are required by law to wear yellow caps so respectable maidens and wives be left unmolested on the street. He was shod in fine leather, and the pointed toes of his shoes curled up in ungainly fashion.

The fellow seemed impatient; while I watched he strode purposefully past Caxton’s shop, then reversed his steps and walked past in the opposite direction, toward my approach. I drew closer to the shop, so that at each turn I could see his face more clearly. His countenance and beard were dark, as were his eyes. The beard was neatly trimmed, and his eyes peered at my approach from above an impressive nose – although, unlike mine, his nose pointed straight out at the world, whereas mine turns to the dexter side. He seemed about my own age – twenty-five years or so. He was broad of shoulder and yet slender, but good living was beginning to produce a paunch.

I slowed my pace as I approached the shuttered shop. Caxton would open his business soon, and I assumed this dandy needed parchment, ink, or a book, although he did not seem the type to be much interested in words on a page.

I stood in the street, keeping the impatient coxcomb company, until Robert Caxton opened his shop door and pushed up his shutters to begin business for the day. The stationer looked from me to his other customer and I thought his eyes widened. I bowed to the other client and motioned him to precede me into the shop. He was there before me.

The morning sun was low in the southeast, and did not penetrate far into the shop. But dark as the place was, I could see that Kate was not within. He of the red cotehardie saw the same, and spoke before I could.

“Is Mistress Kate at leisure?” he asked.

Caxton glanced at me, then answered, “Near so. Preparing a pot of ink in the workroom. Be done shortly.”

“I’ll wait,” the fellow said with a smile. “’Tis a pleasant morning. And if Kate has no other concerns, I’d have her walk with me along the water meadow.”

He might as well have swatted me over my skull with a ridge pole. My jaw went slack and I fear both Caxton and this unknown suitor got a fine view of my tonsils.

Robert Caxton was not so discomfited that he forgot his manners. He introduced me to Sir Simon Trillowe. A knight. And of some relation to the new sheriff of Oxford, I guessed.

When he learned that I was but a surgeon and bailiff to Lord Gilbert Talbot, Sir Simon nodded briefly and turned away, his actions speaking what polite words could not: I was beneath his rank and unworthy of his consideration.

“We heard naught of you for many months, Master Hugh,” Caxton remarked.

This was true. I had neglected pursuit of Kate Caxton while about Lord Gilbert’s business in Bampton. And, to be true, I feared Kate might dismiss my suit should I press it. A man cannot be disappointed in love who does not seek it.

“No doubt a bailiff has much to occupy his time,” the stationer continued.

Sir Simon doubtless thought that I was but a customer, not that I was in competition with him for the fair Kate. He would learn that soon enough.

The door to Caxton’s workroom was open. Kate surely heard this exchange, which was a good thing. It gave her opportunity to compose herself. A moment later she entered the shop, carrying my pot of promised ink, and bestowed a tranquil smile upon both me and Sir Simon. I smiled in return, Trillowe did not. Perhaps he had guessed already that it was not ink I most wished to take from Caxton’s shop.

“Mistress Kate,” Sir Simon stepped toward her as she passed through the door. “’Tis a pleasant autumn morn… there will be few more before winter. Perhaps we might walk the path along the Cherwell… if your father can spare you for the morning.”

With these words Trillowe turned to the stationer. Caxton shrugged a reply.

“Good.” Sir Simon offered his arm and, with a brief smile and raised brows in my direction, Kate set the pot of ink on her father’s table and took Trillowe’s arm. They departed the shop wordlessly.

Caxton apparently thought some explanation in order. “You didn’t call through the summer. Kate thought you’d no interest. I told her last night you’d asked to pay court. But Sir Simon’s been by a dozen times since Lammas Day… others, too.”


“Aye. My Kate does draw lads to the shop. None has asked me might they pay court, though. But for you.”

“Not Sir Simon?”

“Nay. Second son of the sheriff, and a knight. He’ll not ask leave of one like me to do aught.”

“And Kate returns his interest?”

Caxton shrugged. “She’s walked out with him three times now. A knight, mind you. And son of the sheriff. Can’t blame a lass for that.”

“No,” I agreed.

“Can’t think how his father’d be pleased, though. A stationer’s daughter! A scandal in Oxford Castle when word gets out, as it surely has, by now,” Caxton mused.

“Aye. What lands his father may hold will pass to his brother. The sheriff will want Sir Simon seeking a wife with lands of her own.”

I hoped that was so. But if a second or third son acts to displease his father, it is difficult to correct him. How can a man disinherit a son who is due to receive little or nothing anyway? So if a son courting Kate Caxton displeased the sheriff of Oxford, such offense might escape retribution. This thought did not bring me joy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hearts Aglow by Tracie Peterson

Striking A Match, Book 2

The future should be bright for Deborah Vandermark, who is now pursuing her interest in medicine alongside Dr. Christopher Clayton, who is courting her.

But the lumber town is resistant to the idea of a woman physician, and she feels thwarted at every turn.

A more devastating blow occurs, however, when Christopher breaks off their relationship to return home to his troubled family. Despite her own love life going awry, Deborah is still intent to be a matchmaker for both her widowed mother and her brother, who has caught the eye of the spit-fire daughter of the local pastor.

What will Deborah do when faced with the truth about Christopher's family? Is there hope for the two of them...or will Jake Wyeth's attentions finally catch Deborah's eye instead?

My Review:
For those who love Christian history/romance, this book set in the 19th century is for you. I was grabbed with the first page and read straight through to the satisfying end. For those who like to cook, two tempting recipes are even included.

There are so many good parts to this tale. Prejudice is one topic covered. Most people feel a woman should stay at home, while our protagonist wants to study and practice medicine. Inability to tolerate anyone from a different race is another theme. One of my favorites parts is in chapter five when Pastor Shattuck draws an amazing connection from the biblical story of Joseph to black/white relations. That alone is worth the price of the book!

I love to learn, and the author injected some gems. For instance, I learned that "quinsy," is infected tonsils.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In the Shadow of Evil by Robin Caroll

Just outside of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Detective Sergeant Maddox Bishop works in the Criminal Investigative Department, Homicide Division. When the dead body of a building inspector is found in a burnt "Homes of Hope" house, Maddox gets the case. The trail of evidence will lead him into exposing one of the biggest scams of modern day.

Layla Taylor is a contractor in Calcasieu parish, who loves God, her family, and what she does. When Detective Bishop's investigation leads him to her sister's drug-rehab retreat, every defense in her rises to the surface. To prove her sister's business isn't involved with anything illegal or immoral, she joins forces with the man who is against everything she believes in.

My Review:
Here's a good read: a mystery book with just the right touch of whodunit and romance. All loose ends are neatly tied up before the final chapter. Why, even a cold case is solved in a surprising twist!

Layla Taylor is a good role model for single Christian women. She's independent, hard worker, Christian, but when tempted to fall for a nonbeliever, she holds back. The tug on her heart strings while her world falls apart, makes for one compelling story.

Discussion questions are included.

Thank you to FirstWildCard and Julie Gwinn at BH Publishing Group for my copy.

And now, the first chapter:


Eighteen Years Earlier

What a night!

Maddox turned his car into the residential area and glanced at the digital display on the dash—12:28. Great, late for curfew. He smiled. Being late was worth it when he’d had a hot date with Julie Cordon. Man, the girl was something else. Beautiful, sexy, and funny. Just being with her made him feel special. Made him forget lots of things, including time.

Besides, he was seventeen. Curfews were for kids! A senior in high school, and he had to be home by midnight? All his Pop’s doing.

Tyson Bishop…Mr. Air Force man, determined to force the entire family to live by rules and regulations.

But his dad was over foreign soil right now, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Mom understood better, wasn’t quite the stickler about curfews like his dad. Good thing, too. Maddox was almost thirty minutes late tonight. Pop would blow his top and ground him for at least a month. Probably take away his car. But not Mom. She’d just caution him to pay closer attention to the time. Launch into the whole spiel about responsibility and accountability. He could recite it from memory.

Maddox whipped into the driveway and pressed the garage door opener. The light from the kitchen door spilled into the garage. Mom would be up…waiting. He should’ve called.

But being around Julie was like being caught in a time warp. Even the car’s interior held her smell. Light, flowery…teasing and tempting.

He killed the engine and jogged up the steps, slipping his charming smile into place. His mom had never been able to stay mad or disappointed when he flashed his dimples at her. He’d promise to mow the grass tomorrow before Pop got home, and she’d forget all about his tardiness.

He shut the garage door behind him and entered the kitchen. “Mom? I’m home.” The hint of roast lingered in the air.

The house was as silent as a tomb.

Odd. She would normally be on her feet to meet him.

He passed the kitchen’s butcher-block island and continued into the living room. A soft light filled the space beside her reading chair, but no sign of her.


Maddox backtracked to the kitchen. Maybe she was in the downstairs bathroom.

“Hello?” His voice rose an octave as his pulse hammered. The bathroom door was wide open, the room dark.

Where was she?

His steps faltered as he pressed into the kitchen again. The backdoor stood open, the glass pane closest to the knob—shattered. His heart jumped into his throat.


Using the agility that had garnered him the wide receiver place on the varsity football team, Maddox flew down the hall toward his parents’ bedroom. He pushed open the door with shaking hands.

His mother lay sprawled on the floor, a pool of blood staining the carpet around her. Her face pale against the dark red spilling from her chest. A metallic odor permeated the room.

What? He blinked repeatedly, his mind not processing what his eyes saw. Then…he did. And nearly vomited.

He raced to her side, lifting her head into his lap. “Mom.” Tears backed up in his eyes as he smoothed her hair.

“Mad-dy,” she croaked.

He grabbed the phone from the nightstand, the base landing on the floor with a resounding thud. He grabbed the receiver and punched in 9-1-1.

“Hang on, Mom. I’m calling for help.” Every nerve in his body stood at high alert.

“Too. Late.” She grimaced. A gurgling seeped from between her lips. Her body went slack in his arms.

“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

He closed his eyes. Fought back scalding tears. “My mother. She’s been murdered.”