Book Review: Sins of the Past

Sins of the Past Sins of the Past is a collection of three “romantic suspense” novellas by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason. The characters and stories are unrelated except that each main character’s current dilemma is a result of or related to something in his or her past.

In “Missing” by Dee Henderson, Wyoming police chief John Graham received word that his mother was missing from her retirement community in Chicago. He flew back to Chicago from Wyoming. Initial reports showed no foul play or evidence of a robbery or a sudden attack. John begins to fear that someone from his undercover days in Chicago is taking revenge on him through his mother. He works with Lieutenant Sharon Noble to find his mother and her kidnapper.

In “Shadowed” by Dani Pettrey, competitive open-water swimmer Libby Jennings goes for a pleasure ride to see dolphins when the skipper of the boat sees a dead body in the water. When they pull the body in, Libby finds it is one of her competitors, Kat. Kat was from Russia and the two women had had some conflicts in the past, but Libby hates to see Kat dead. Libby works with the local law enforcement of small town Yancey, Alaska, to find out what happened. Since this story takes place in the Cold War era, investigators suspect ties to Communist intrigue as well.

In “Blackout” by Lynette Eason, Macey Adams has been suffering from migraines and memory loss since a horrific accident several years earlier. But just when bits and pieces of her memory begin to return, she finds herself in danger. Her brother-in-law had died trying to help her regain her memories, so she closes herself off from others so as not to put anyone else in danger. But a police officer-neighbor comes to her aid when he hears her screaming after a home intrusion, and together they investigate who might be trying to do Macey harm and why.

My thoughts:

The draw for me in this book was Dee Henderson. Suspense and crime drama aren’t my first choice of book genres, but I discovered Dee years ago while looking for Christian fiction that my mom might be interested in, and I think I have read all of Dee’s books since then. I very much enjoyed her story, though I figured out the culprit early on. I was surprised as to the person’s motives, though. I had not read either of the other two authors before. There were a couple of odd sentences in Dani’s story (one example: “He looked her in the eye, the depth of his heart wading in them”) and a few too many “She looked at his lips, which she wished were pressing hers” kind of statements. There seemed to me to be a couple of illogical aspects in the last two stories (a civilian heavily involved in a murder investigation, someone who is being stalked taking out the garbage alone behind her building at work). But overall I did enjoy these stories, too. Lynette’s particularly started off right in the middle of a tense scene and drew me right in. I appreciated that the characters in the first two stories acted “Christianly” (to borrow Rebekah‘s word), yet in a natural way. There wasn’t much from a Christian nature in the third except for a couple of prayers or acknowledgments of God’s intervention.

If you like stories that are clean, Christian, and suspenseful, you might like these books. One advantage of novella collections is the opportunity to sample writing from a few different authors.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved, Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: Undetected

UndetectedDee Henderson is one of my favorite authors, so I am always alert to her new releases. I’ve had Undetected on the shelf while I tried to be a good girl and keep to some of my reading commitments before delving into it, but I finally gave myself permission.

Most people acquainted with Mark Bishop only know he is a Navy submarine commander. In truth he is one of a small number of people “entrusted with half the U. S. deployed nuclear arsenal” (p. 12). He commands one of a few a ballistic submarines that is on patrol every 90 days, switching off with other submarines for the next 90. Though ready to launch a nuclear missile if ordered to by the president, their mission is to try to keep peace and to observe trouble spots. He is a widower with no children and is just starting to think about dating again.

Gina Gray is nearly 30 and unmarried, though she wants to be. Her relationships seem to end with the guy giving the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. With above average intelligence (to put it mildly), she sailed through school and college at early ages. Though she has a vast number of interests, her brother’s being a submariner led her to map the ocean floors to help subs avoid accidents and find optimal places to hide. Further discoveries lead to improvements in sonar readings, each one further into classified territory, hugely helpful to the US but dangerous if its enemies should make the same discoveries. Thus she finds herself with a security detail posted around the clock for her safety.

Since Gina’s brother is one of Mark’s close friends, they’ve met before, but never considered each other as potential for a relationship for various reasons, chiefly their age difference. But as Gina’s work brings them into closer contact, Mark begins to see qualities he admires. He may be too late, though, as she begins dating another submariner.

Though Dee’s books are usually action-packed and suspenseful, that aspect of the story only came in the last part of the book. But I’m fine with that. The details of submarine life and Gina’s work were fascinating. In a previous book where a couple of characters dealt with rare coins, I felt there was too much detail for the average reader and it bogged down the story a bit. I didn’t feel that way in this story: there was enough detail to make it understandable, to make you feel like you were watching over someone’s shoulder, but not so much that an average reader would feel it is too technical. I’m wondering if Dee has spent time on a sub or was in the Navy: her portrayal seemed pretty realistic to me. I wondered, too, how much of Gina’s sonar work was real and in use or just from Dee’s imagination.

I’m not much for “romance for romance’s sake” books, but Dee’s books are rich in story and are mature: I don’t mean just that the characters are a bit older, but after recently finishing a different book that would be classified as a romance that I can only describe as silly, I am glad that Dee’s books aren’t that. I also like that the characters seek the Lord’s will in a genuine way.

I like the multiple shades of the book’s title, dealing with the sub’s need to stay undetected, the value of being able to see other vessels previously undetectable, and Mark and Gina’s finding value in each other previously undetected.

Bryce and Charlotte Bishop from Unspoken make an appearance in this book: Bryce is Mark’s brother. But you don’t have to have read that story first in order to understand this one. The only problem if you read them in reverse would be knowing Charlotte’s true identity, which is part of the mystery in that book.

There were just a couple of places I felt could have used a bit more editing: a couple of places that seemed repetitive, and awkward sentence or two. I thought the “competition” between two men for Gina’s interest was handled more maturely than it probably would have happened in real life. But those are all minor criticisms.

Overall I loved this book and feel Dee has another winner on her hands.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Book Review: Unspoken by Dee Henderson

UnspokenI’ve mentioned before my history of reading Dee Henderson novels. Her latest is Unspoken, which involves a survivor of one of the most famous kidnappings in Chicago. Charlotte Graham was kidnapped at sixteen and found four years later but has never said a word about it to the police or much of anyone else in the eighteen years since. She has a new life and profession and tries to keep a low profile.

But her grandfather, who is evidently wealthier than most of the population, has died and wanted her to manage his estate, part of which is a massive amount of valuable old coins. That brings her to Bryce Bishop, a dealer in coins who has his own respectable family business in Chicago. Bryce had been bored and prayed for God to shake up his life a bit, and Charlotte’s coins, the way she offered them for sale, and the woman herself have certainly answered that prayer.

Charlotte has decided she is single for life, so at first she is uninterested in anything but a business relationship with Bryce. The time they spend together leads to a friendship and interest on Bryce’s part. It’s a while before she feels free enough to disclose anything about her past, and she does so in stages. She describes herself as “at best a messed-up Christian” because she can’t reconcile how God could love her and yet let this happen to her, and how He would have forgiven her kidnappers if they had repented.

As Bryce and Charlotte work through their issues, a well-known investigative reporter decides it is time to write a book about the case. Not only will the book open old wounds for Charlotte, but it opens the door for danger as well. There is a reason she hasn’t said anything to the police about her abduction, and this reporter’s book could not only jeopardize her privacy but also the safety of her loved ones.

Paul and Ann Falcon from Full Disclosure are characters in this book as well, as friends of Bryce. You don’t have to have read that book to understand this one, but it was fun to “see” them again.

As always, Dee had done a wonderful job with the story, the suspense, the characters, and the spiritual issues in a natural way. I can always count on her books to pull me right in and keep me interested all the way through. This one did get a little boggy in places with all the detail about coins: I understand some detail was needed to be authentic, but I could have used less in places. But overall I loved it!

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)