Review: The House on Foster Hill – Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright. The House on Foster Hill. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I’m not the person to watch scary movies, but I oftentimes enjoy reading Christian fiction with mystery or suspense elements.  Somehow, these authors typically make the genre more accessible and I’m generally fine reading these stories.

In The House on Foster Hill, Kaine Prescott returns to her ancestral family’s hometown in Wisconsin to leave behind her tragic past in California.  She hopes by restoring a historical estate, she can finally grieve and recover from the murder of her husband and the impact that event had on her life.  She fears that her past career helping abused women had finally caught up with her in California.  Unfortunately, the house has its own past and is in terrible condition when Kaine arrives.  Ivy Thorpe had her own encounters in the house on Foster Hill a century before.  An unknown woman is found murdered on the property and it takes Ivy and a group of townspeople to solve the mystery of what happened within the house.  Placing their own lives at risk across the years, Kaine and Ivy discover the house’s secrets and find their lives will never be the same.

Bridging two periods within the town, The House on Foster Hill presents a high-stakes mystery that will delight fans of this genre of stories.  Ms. Wright’s debut novel offers plenty of suspense that ties together generations of people from a small Wisconsin town.

Overall, I thought The House on Foster Hill offered a different kind of story from what I typically read.  In seeing other reviews about the book, I was expecting an easy five-start review on my end.  However, I had several issues with the novel.  In reading the Kindle version, I expected the book to end at many different points, but I was rarely anywhere near the end of the book.  It could have used some significant editing, particularly in its plot development, even though the writing style of the author was pretty good.  Some of the characters were stronger than others, with Ivy Thorpe coming across as one of the best-developed in the novel.  Also, I was rather disappointed to see minimal historical detail in the historical sections of the book.  I would much prefer to see a stronger plot that is exclusively contemporary or historical, as very few authors can successfully pull off both within a single novel.  Lastly, I found this book to be much creepier than almost any other Christian mystery/suspense novel that I have previously read.  While I could see other readers really enjoying that aspect of the story, I found it somewhat off-putting and it made it a struggle to actually finish the book.

Fans of high-stakes mystery and suspense novels may find The House on Foster Hill to be worth reading.  While the book does have Christian elements, readers who identify more closely with other forms of Christian fiction (contemporary or historical) may find this book to be creepier than they prefer for light reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of The House on Foster Hill!

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Review: Threads of Suspicion – Dee Henderson

Dee Henderson. Threads of Suspicion: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!  I’m happy to return with our regularly-scheduled book review this week, featuring Dee Henderson’s latest release.

Ms. Henderson follows her acclaimed Traces of Guilt novel with Threads of Suspicion, which continues the tales of the cold cases of Evie Blackwell of the Illinois State PoliceBased on Evie’s previous successes as a cold case investigator, the governor has appointed her to the new statewide Missing Persons Task Force.  Evie and the team are under pressure to produce results in these cases, even as they face tremendous odds and communities that are suspicious that these murders can ever be solved.  Along with her new partner, David Marshal, Evie arrives in suburban Chicago to solve two of these cases, one involving a missing college student and the other focused on a skilled private investigator.  When the two cases collide, Evie and David must use all of their knowledge and abilities to finally bring resolution to both local mysteries.

Filled with moments of suspense and faith, Threads of Suspicion marks the return of Evie Blackwell and Ms. Henderson’s world of crime-fighting and mystery-solving characters.  Fans of Traces of Guilt and Ms. Henderson’s other novels will be thrilled to see more high-stakes suspense from this acclaimed Christian author.

Overall, I was quite excited to finally have the chance to read Threads of Suspicion.  Ms. Henderson’s suspense novels are consistently among my favorites of the genre.  In general, the Evie Blackwell Cold Case novels have been nice, as they continue to build upon the world of characters featured in Ms. Henderson’s previous novels, especially those released by Bethany House.  As I have really enjoyed those main characters, I appreciate their periodic reappearances in these most recent books.  However, the character of Evie Blackwell sometimes comes across as being somewhat one-dimensional in comparison to the other characters in this novel, as well as those found in Ms. Henderson’s other published stories.  Threads of Suspicion features Evie’s case-solving abilities and the cases themselves, but does not include as much content focused on Evie’s relationship with the rest of the task force and other people of interest.  Instead, the strongest relationships and personal interactions exist between the other characters, leaving Evie to appear less interesting and well-rounded than her partner and more minor characters.  For fans of Ms. Henderson’s work, Threads of Suspicion functions as a continuation of the author’s high-caliber storytelling abilities in the suspense genre, independent of one’s attachment to the characters themselves.

Fans of Ms. Henderson’s work, especially Traces of Guilt, should definitely read Threads of Suspicion.  Additionally, readers who enjoy Christian suspense novels will find Ms. Henderson’s novels to be well-worth checking out in the near future.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Threads of Suspicion!

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Review: Beyond Justice – Cara Putman

Cara Putman. Beyond Justice. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

April kicks off an entire set of very busy months here at the Books and Biscuits Blog.  As we approach the summer, many of the great Christian publishers and their authors are releasing an extraordinary number of new books.

Cara Putman turns to her extensive personal experience as a lawyer to develop the story and characters of Beyond Justice.  Hayden McCarthy spends endless hours of her day focused on her career as an attorney at a D.C. law firm.  After winning a challenging case, Hayden is assigned a case by one of the firm’s partners that may be impossible to win.  However, she may have figured out a way to win the wrongful death case, even if it means pursing a legal battle against the federal government.  With the help of some friends from her law school days and her roommate’s cousin, the son of a Congressman, Hayden just may have enough evidence to win her case, assuming everyone involved stays alive long enough to testify.

Ms. Putman releases her newest novel, Beyond Justice, as a great example of the Christian romantic suspense genre.  Readers familiar with Ms. Putman’s work will have likely seen an introduction to this series in her novella, Dying for Love, released in January.

Overall, I thought that Beyond Justice was one of the better stories that I have read from Ms. Putman.  Her extensive experience and knowledge of legal topics grounds this novel and her characters, while offering a compelling plotline that will keep readers riveted.  While some of the novel’s pacing felt slightly uneven and somewhat dense at times, Ms. Putman focuses on strong suspense elements to drive the overall story.  I am very pleased to see that many of the characters featured in Beyond Justice will reappear in Ms. Putman’s future novels, as some of the secondary characters were quite interesting and well worth exploring within their own stories.

Fans of Ms. Putman’s work, especially those with a romantic suspense emphasis, will definitely want to read Beyond Justice.  Likewise, those who enjoy reading Christian novels of the legal thriller variety will also find this book to be well worth reading.

Ms. Putman’s fascinating cast of characters from Beyond Justice will return in Imperfect Justice, which will be released in December 2017!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of Beyond Justice!

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Review: When Tides Turn – Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin. When Tides Turn. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Since publishing her very first novel, Sarah Sundin has remained among a short list of my favorite authors.  While Ms. Sundin only releases one book a year, I can pretty much guarantee that her work will be among the select group of 5-star reviews posted on the Books and Biscuits Blog.

When Tides Turn serves as the much-anticipated third novel in Ms. Sundin’s Waves of Freedom series.  Lt. Dan Avery has spent his military career with his eye on eventually becoming an admiral.  Under the advisement of his mentor, Admiral Howard, Dan has avoided any and all social distractions, especially those of the romantic kind.  Growing up together in their Ohio hometown, Tess Beaumont has always been Dan’s opposite, a blond known for her beauty over her brains.  After being passed over for a much-deserved promotion, in spite of her business degree, Tess is determined to make her own mark on the war effort by joining the Navy’s WAVES program.  As a fellow officer in Dan’s division, Tess becomes a well-liked and highly-capable member of the team, even as she continues to face challenges to the presence of women in the Navy.  When Tess and Dan encounter an active spy ring with deadly consequences to civilians in Boston, they discover that their duty to their nation extends beyond their careers and requires them to set aside their differences to help their friends survive the threat.

The Waves of Freedom series follows the Avery siblings as they make their own mark on the war effort.  Along with their friends and colleagues, this Boston-based group encounters the realities of war and the evils faced on the homefront.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading When Tides Turn.  Ms. Sundin writes a captivating historical romance, with a balanced element of mystery that will keep readers turning pages long into the night.  As has been the case with Ms. Sundin’s other series, the Waves of Freedom series has included a strong element of family connections between the main characters, while building upon these characters and previous aspects of the series in consecutive novels.  When Tides Turn is particularly fascinating as it serves as one of the few fictional works focused on women’s efforts in military service, particularly the Navy’s WAVES program.  Personally, I would love to see additional works focus on similar auxiliary divisions of the military during World War II, as these women are so often missed in the broader narrative of this era.  This novel offers an excellent conclusion to this series and will leave readers eagerly anticipating Ms. Sundin’s forthcoming series and novels.

Fans of Ms. Sundin’s novels, especially the Waves of Freedom series, will definitely want to read When Tides Turn.  Likewise, readers who enjoy World War II-inspired Christian fiction will also want to try this excellent series.

Special thanks to the Revell Reads Blog Tour program for the advanced copy of When Tides Turn!

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Review: The Illusionist’s Apprentice – Kristy Cambron

Kristy Cambron. The Illusionist’s Apprentice. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Sometimes reviewing books comes with its own set of hazards.  Publishers release books on their own schedules, which means they are not necessarily evenly distributed throughout the year.  At the moment, I’m already reading and writing reviews for upcoming months, while waiting for books to arrive that release this week!  Fortunately, Kristy Cambron’s upcoming release arrived several days ago and I enjoyed every moment of this edge-of-your-seat historical mystery.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice follows the story of Wren Lockhart, a former apprentice to Harry Houdini who has made a name for herself on the vaudeville stage.  Together, Wren and Houdini successfully discredited magicians and spiritualists who misled the public with the promise of returning lost loved ones from the grave.  After Houdini’s death, one disgraced performer dares to regain the stage with the promise of returning a man to life.  However, the illusion’s tragic results quickly leads to an investigation by the burgeoning Boston division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The two agents in charge of the case turn to Wren as an expert illusionist capable of determining the truth behind the deadly vaudeville act.  However, the FBI’s investigation leads the agents to discover the true depth of illusionists’ secrets, especially those held by Wren to separate her glamorous stage life from the truth of her past.

Interweaving scenes from Wren’s past and present life, The Illusionist’s Apprentice will captivate readers with fascinating details of the Jazz Age and vaudeville life.  Ms. Cambron brings a rich vibrancy to her characters, while stepping into the arena of Christian suspense and mystery in her most recent novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Illusionist’s Apprentice!  Ms. Cambron continues to show remarkable growth in her writing from novel to novel, with The Illusionist’s Apprentice placing itself firmly at the forefront of her work.  The book offers a riveting depiction of American vaudeville life during the early part of the twentieth century, particularly in light of Harry Houdini and his fellow illusionists’ work capturing the public’s imagination through live performances.  While Houdini makes few actual appearances in the novel, the story reflects his influence on his chosen profession as a mentor and trendsetter.  Ms. Cambron’s choice to focus on Houdini’s work in debunking spiritualism and séance activity was particularly fascinating, especially when set against the public’s grief from the massive losses of World War I and the Spanish Flu.  At its heart, The Illusionist’s Apprentice ultimately focuses on the balance of truth and illusion in Wren’s life, even as she remains true to her faith.  The faith-based element of the story was relatively surprising and appreciated, although not necessarily overt, as Ms. Cambron’s other Christian novels have been known for their historical detail over the strength of their Christian themes. As an example of Christian suspense/mystery novels, The Illusionist’s Apprentice may be slightly spooky (there is a graveyard scene) for some readers.  However, it remains true to the relatively clean and accessible nature of Christian fiction.

Fans of Ms. Cambron’s previous historical novels, especially The Ringmaster’s Wife, will definitely want to read The Illusionist’s Apprentice.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction set in the early twentieth century will also find this book to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice!

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