By Laurel Dewey
Published 2009, The Story Plant
Hardback, 381 pages
After a series of life-changing events, detective Jane Perry has resigned from the Denver Police Department. Trying to make a living as a private investigator, she finds her past haunting her at every turn and old demons rising up to torment her.I did not read the first book in the series, Protector, but that did not seem to matter all that much in reading this book. I caught up relatively easily to what the author felt I needed to know about Jane Perry's story so that I could dive into the action-packed, suspense-filled plot of this book.
Then Jane meets Kit Clark, a woman who wants Jane to drive with her from Colorado to Northern California in search of a man who matches the description of the killer who murdered her granddaughter many years before. Kit’s convinced that the man has started to kill again and she wants to stop him. Jane thinks the woman is crazy—especially when she discovers that she’s a New Age devotee—but Jane is desperate for work. They head on the road, gathering critical information about the killer, and themselves, along the way. Jane has recently experienced several events in her life that seem to border on the paranormal, though she is a complete skeptic in that regard. Now, those experiences come with greater frequency. And when the trail of the killer leads to a fundamentalist church, the consequences of belief and faith propel her toward a deadly confrontation.
Once again, Laurel Dewey has created a novel as rich in character as it is in suspense. Juxtaposing spirituality and religion, mission and manipulation, revenge and redemption, this powerful, taut mystery confirms the author as a top-flight storyteller and promises to resonate in your soul.
One of the first things I noticed about the main character of Jane Perry is both her seemingly-abrasive personality, complete with a foul mouth, and her battle with alcoholism. Throughout the book, her strong personality is both her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. Her daily battle to remain sober - pushing six months - is also a prominent theme, complete with AA meetings, sobriety chips, and the 12-step program. I found these details interesting from the educational standpoint, since I have known a few alcoholics, both recovering and not, but nothing about the process of recovery from this horrible addiction.
The woman that hires Jane Perry, Katherine Clark (better known as Kit), is in many ways the very opposite of Jane. A woman in her 60's, she describes her personality as that of an "earth mother". Dealing with stage 4 cancer, she is a strict adherent of New Age philosophies and herbal medicine to treat both her cancer and her particular brand of spirituality. In addition, several of the plot's "bad guys" were followers of a particular sect of Fundamentalist Christianity that Kit spends an overt amount of time condemning, despite her many lectures of tolerance, love, and forgiveness. This in turn incites Jane to regularly mock Fundamentalist Christianity by proxy.
While I realize that radicals of any religion are easy fodder for mainstream literature, the personal beliefs of the author completely overpower the actual plot of the book. It is patently obvious that Dewey is a major supporter of all things New Age, with a penchant for Buddhism, and is completely against a literal translation of the Bible. As I have said in previous reviews, a good author is invisible to the reader, but in this book, the author often felt more present in the plot than the actual characters the book was intended to be about - some sort of amalgamation of Jane and Kit. Despite the good intentions that I am sure Dewey harbors in writing in this fashion, I became rather depressed by the end of the book by the over-saturation of Dewey's agenda of New Ageism versus Christianity, as the book became less and less about the heroics of Jane Perry and more about the beliefs of Laurel Dewey.
While I acknowledge that I do not agree with everything within the particular doctrines of the character of Dr. John Bartosh, I do consider myself a Fundamentalist Christian, a person who believes in both the literal and figurative translation of the Bible. For the author to expect me, the reader, to not even be slightly offended by the condemnation and open mockery of what I consider to be the foundation of my morality and how I live my life on a daily basis is both presumptuous and insensitive.
Despite this, the book was well-written from a literary approach, with unique characters, an unpredictable plot, and no loose ends.
The Cover: The cover seems rather overly simplified, like a bad photograph. Ironically, I think the car on the back cover would have been much better on the front, as it holds a variety of clues to both the main character and the location in the book.
First Lines: "Barmaid!" Jane Perry yelled above the din of the smoke-laced barroom. "Two more whiskeys for me and two tequilas for my friend!" Jane came to an unsteady halt in front of the waitress, her back to Carlos. "You got that?" Jane said, her eyes asking another question.
Well, this is a compelling introduction, as my first thought is that the main character is a drunk, followed by a 'maybe not' with the 'another question.' Of course I had to keep reading after that.
Favorite Quote: "Seek contentment rather than happiness. Contentment holds water. Happiness leaks."
Read For: Off The Shelf Challenge, Strong Heroine Challenge, Twenty-Eleven Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*