Out of the Shadows

In Sigmund Brouwer’s Out of the Shadows, Nick Barrett’s life has been shaped by two abandonments. His mother left with his trust fund before his tenth birthday, and there had been no word from her since. And as an adult, his wife of four days betrayed him.

Nick’s mother had been a waitress when a war hero from one of Charleston’s elite families saw her and fell in love. They married, but Nick and his mother were considered outsiders, especially after his father died. When his mother left, he was begrudgingly taken in by his father’s relatives. But he was still always on the outside. Just four days after he married the girl he loved, an accident cost him his leg, his marriage, and his Charleston residency. He signed an agreement to leave and never return.

Nick has been away from his native Charleston, SC, for fifteen years. He’s bitter against his mother, his relatives, and God. But a mysterious unsigned note has brought him back, promising information about his mother. Looking not only for information, but also revenge, Nick is led through a winding path of revelations. But what will they cost him in the end?

In defense of the stubbornness of my soul’s early flight from God, there were all the events before I left Charleston—events that seemed totally bereft of the touch of a God of love. God, however, as I was about to discover, is a patient hunter. I can now examine my years of exile and see earmarked on the pages of my personal history the times he beckoned, times that I resolutely turned aside to my own path. I imagine that in a way, I was like Jonah, determined to head in the opposite direction of God’s calling. For Jonah, the city he desperately wanted to avoid was Nineveh. For me, it was Charleston.

I picked up this book on a Kindle sale partly because I love Charleston and partly because I had read something of Brouwer’s in the past. I remembered enjoying it, though I couldn’t remember what it was.

This book was fascinating. There were several jaw-dropping surprises or twists, but not too many to seem realistic. I love the Charleston history and setting. I loved the irony of the Old South incongruity of using the most polite language while doing the most awful things. A couple of my favorite characters were a gossipy pair of elderly twin antique owners.

I didn’t know at first that this book was the beginning of a series. But now I look forward to reading the rest.

Book Review: Dying to Read

In Lorena McCourtney’s novel, Dying to Read, Cate Kinkaid is nearly 30 and at a crossroad. She’s helping out her private investigator uncle until another job opens up. Her first assignment is simply to verify that a particular woman lived at a certain address. But things get complicated when Cate finds a disgruntled book club and a dead body rather than the woman she’s looking for.

Then Cate’s uncle falls off a ladder and needs hip surgery, so she’s on her own. She decides the least she can do is try to get more information about the woman she was originally looking for. But, though she has no PI training, something about the dead woman’s case and the book club nags at her. Before long she finds herself deep in suspects and danger.

I don’t read many mysteries. I got this on a Kindle sale because of the title and the book club aspect. It took me a little while to get into the book, but I was engaged before too long. Cait is a little quirky. I wouldn’t call the writing funny, exactly, but there are some witty moments. But it’s not exactly a comedy: there are several twists and turns and some dangerous moments. The author did a good job presenting several plausible suspects while keeping the real murderer a surprise until nearly the end.

This book is the first in a trilogy. If you like clean, cozy mysteries with a Christian main character, I think you’d like this book.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: Annabel Lee

annabel leeAnnabel Lee lives with her uncle, called Truck, and his scary dog in small-town Alabama. Truck teaches her from home, mostly languages like German and Creole. Suddenly one day Truck takes Annabel to an underground bunker, leaves the dog with her, and tells her sternly not to open the door for anyone, including him, without the safe code.

Meanwhile investigator Trudi Coffey has noticed that a personal newspaper ad that has said merely “Safe” for months now suddenly says “Unsafe.” Shortly thereafter a mysterious “Dr. Smith” comes to her agency to ask if she has seen or knows anything about Truck. Trudi denies any knowledge, though Truck was a friend and colleague of her ex-husband, Samuel.

Then Samuel himself shows up, asking to borrow back a book he had gifted her with some years before: a volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s works. Trudi gives it to him but doesn’t tell him that she had discovered the secret compartment in the back and removed the key and note there.

The Mute is an ex-military sniper who first earned his nickname because he was so quiet. Then an explosion while on duty took away his voice for real. The Mute is Truck’s friend and knows Annabel is in trouble but doesn’t know where to find her. But he knows evil people are also looking for her.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa grabbed me in the first chapter and did not let go. Not only was the story riveting, but the banter, particularly between Trudi and Samuel, was exquisite. The point of view goes back and forth between Annabel, Trudi, and the Mute. The story was a bit more violent than my usual fare, but it wasn’t gratuitous: the bad guys were extremely bad guys and needed extreme means to defend against. There’s a definite faith element and undercurrent to the story, though it’s not blatant.

Though I wanted to race through the book to find out what happened, I was also sad to see it end. Great story: wonderful writing: highly recommended.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)