book cover review, Christian fiction, christian mystery, Christian romance, inspirational fiction

Book and Cover Review of "Deadly Devotion" by Sandra Orchard

deadlydevotionBook Review
Research scientist Kate Adams is determined from the onset to prove her herbal medicine research partner — and dear friend — was too knowledgable to have killed herself by adding the wrong herbs to her tea (and not prone to suicide either!) In this story Kate comes across somewhat like a young Jessica Fletcher (for those of you who remember the popular show ‘Murder She Wrote’. Due to something that happened in her family’s past, Kate does not trust the police to investigate the murder of her friend … so, she tackles it on her own.
Thankfully for Kate, a certain former FBI agent and his retired father are following her every move. Even though the law enforcement duo save her bacon more than once, Kate still isn’t sure she can trust them. They have just as many doubts about her when they find out she’s living under an assumed name.
This was a quick read that was hard to put down. As an amateur sleuth, Kate comes up with some rather inventive suspects and scenarios. Who knew one sleepy little town would have so many suspicious characters? I am already looking forward to book two of this fun new series.
Cover Review
The attractive female on the cover, with her fiery red hair and her suspicious looking glance to the left are a good fit for our heroine. The spooky clouds in the background and the creaky-looking abandoned shack also lend an air of mystery to this cover design. I also like the treatment of the title text; the fragmentation matches the feel of a murder mystery without having to feature finger prints, evidence bags, guns or drops of blood. It’s subtle, but effective. The spine is not as effective as the front cover, but overall I feel the cover will draw the right audience to Sandra’s story.
*I received this book from Revell for review.
Additional bonus material from the author can be found here:
Christian fiction, Contemporary fiction

Book and Cover Review of "Nothing to Hide" by J. Mark Bertrand

Book Review

In book three of his Roland March Mystery series, author J. Mark Bertrand continues to develop a believable character that struggles to find answers – not just as a detective solving crimes – but as a human being seeking answers to wrongs he has seen in his own lifetime. As he has done with the first two books of this series, Bertrand manages to seek this answers in a manner that does not come across as ‘preachy’ – as is the danger in writing soul-searching Christian fiction. Roland March is a likable character, full of flaws, but ultimately struggling to make sense out of his job and his life.  He’s a bit past his prime, but still always manages to come out on top … sometimes barely.
Another interesting fact about this mystery is that even the author admits that it’s inspiration was a true story about a man who was pulled over claiming to be a CIA agent, but the additional storyline regarding the selling of illegal arms to Mexican drug cartels was written prior to factual news about operation ‘Fast and Furious’. Any similarities are a coincidence … but as a reader I also felt that it was testament that the writer did his homework. The story was fiction, but the scenario was something that could be all too true.
I believe this book, and the earlier two in this series, will appeal to both men and women who enjoy murder mysteries, cop shows and similar. It would also not be offensive to non-Christian readers.
Cover Review
 
As with the two earlier books in this series, the cover is well-suited to the personality of its main character. Its look is gritty, raw and to-the-point (much like detective Roland March). I will say that the black and white photo at the top may be my favorite yet. It pulls you in. You are left wondering if the person behind the hand is desiring to get in or out from his side of the fence? From even before page one there is a mystery afoot!
This cover will appeal to mystery readers, both male and female. It also doesn’t scream that this is a Christian novel, therefore I believe it will appeal to the readers its writing was meant for. Another great job performed by cover designer Faceout Studio.
* This book was received for review from the publisher. Further information about the author and the book has been furnished below by the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingNothing to HideBethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012)byJ. Mark Bertrand

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Mark Bertrand lived in Houston, where the series is set, for fifteen years,
earning an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. But after
one hurricane too many he left for South Dakota. Mark has been arrested
for a crime he didn’t commit, was the foreman of one hung jury and served
on another that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an
honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A grisly homicide. An international threat.
The stakes have never been higher for
Detective Roland March.

The victim’s head is missing, but what intrigues Detective Roland March
is the hand. The pointing finger must be a clue–but to what? According
to the FBI, the dead man was an undercover asset tracking the flow of
illegal arms to the Mexican cartels. To protect the operation, they want
March to play along with the cover story. With a little digging, though, he
discovers the Feds are lying. And they’re not the only ones.

In an upside-down world of paranoia and conspiracy, March finds himself
dogged by injury and haunted by a tragic failure. Forced to take justice into
his own hands, his twisting investigation leads him into the very heart of
darkness, leaving March with nothing to lose–and nothing to hide.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Nothing to Hide, go HERE.

Christian fiction

Book & Cover Review of "Pattern of Wounds" by J. Mark Bertrand

 Pattern of Wounds (A Roland March Mystery)
Book Review
Homicide detective Roland March is back on murder … again. This time, his pride may be getting in the way of the investigation. Will he be able to check his pride, at least consider the fact that he may have previously convicted the wrong man in one of his biggest cases – enabling him to look at the details objectively?

J. Mark Bertrand has successfully engrossed readers again into the gritty, raw, and pressure-filled life of a police detective. In a recent interview with Family Fiction magazine I read the author felt that each book in this series tackled a current cultural obsession. The first book dealt with what he called ‘the missing white girl syndrome’, but that this second novel tackled our fascination with serial killers and our need to place blame elsewhere, sometimes creating patterns in non-related crimes in order to try to make sense of the randomness of murder.

As someone who admittedly watches too many crime dramas (the Closer, Bones, Law & Order … ) I love this series. One thing this series has that the TV dramas do not is an ever-increasing sprinkling of Christian characters that continue to work on the main character to examine what he truly believes, and how appears to others.

A wonderful book that will appeal to both men and women who like crime dramas and would enjoy seeing God turn a good cop around … though the journey to that may have a lot of bumps along the way.  I would also say that reading the first book of the series, Back On Murder, is not necessary to making this second one in the series enjoyable, but I imagine many will be looking for it after they read this one – eager for more!

Cover Review
This cover follows the same grungy pattern that was established with the first cover. By the book’s large title text and the roughened background texture I feel that most shelf-browsers will know this book is likely a murder mystery. The only additional hint is the photo at the top, featuring a pair of floating legs that appear to belong to a woman wearing billowing pants. By the picture alone you aren’t able to tell if the person is just dipping their legs in the pool … or what exactly? So that alone would not portray murder; making the large title absolutely necessary.

This cover will capture the attention of crime drama/murder mystery readers, and also those who have already read the first book of this series.

* This book was received for review from Bethany House publishers with no guarantee of a positive review. I am also including the below information from the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for anyone craving more information (including the first chapter for free.)

This week, the  Christian Fiction Blog Alliance  is introducing  Pattern of Wounds  Bethany House (July 1, 2011)  by  J. Mark Bertrand   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

J. Mark Bertrand lived in Houston, where the series is set, for fifteen years, earning an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. But after one hurricane too many he relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, was the foreman of one hung jury and served on another that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

It’s Christmas in Houston, and homicide detective Roland March is on the hunt for a killer. A young woman’s brutal stabbing in an affluent neighborhood bears all the hallmarks of a serial murder. The only problem is that March sent the murderer to prison ten years ago. Is it a copycat — or did March convict the wrong man?

Alienated from his colleagues and with a growing rift in his marriage, March receives messages from the killer. The bodies pile up, the pressure builds, and the violence reaches too close to home. Up against an unfathomable evil, March struggles against the clock to understand the hidden message in the pattern of wounds.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pattern of Wounds, go HERE.

Christian fiction

Book & Cover Review of "Back On Murder" by J. Mark Bertrand

Back on Murder (Roland March Mysteries)
Book Review
Back on Murder (Roland March Mysteries) was one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time, and that includes both Christian and non-Christian fiction. I believe I read it in the span of 24 hours?  It’s gritty. It’s raw. And the story and it’s characters come across as totally real. Houston homicide detective Roland March is great at what he does.  He may have fallen from glory, but he still knows how to get in there and doggedly track down the answers – following every loose trail and analyzing the flaws and motives of every person he comes into contact with, including some intriguing Christian characters.

Additionally, Roland March himself is very flawed. Due to the story being written in first person point of view we are blatantly aware of his mental anxieties, his marital problems, his struggles with grief, with work-place politics and his fear that his intuition about this case could be all wrong … and then he’ll feel like he’s sinking even deeper into the mud that seems lately to be filling his life.

I just can’t say enough good things about this book. Some heavy topics are tackled in a very realistic way, but without at all coming across as preachy or providing ‘pat’ answers. In fact, I get the impression that Roland hasn’t decided at all that he wants to model himself after the Christians he has come into contact with during this case … but you do get the feeling that they have already started making an impression on the way he thinks about them, and about life in general.  The ball is rolling, and I can’t wait to see where it tumbles next!  J. Mark Bertrand has definitely earned a spot on my favorite mystery writer’s list! (And that says a lot because anyone reading this blog knows I also just posted a review for Steven Jame’s ‘the Bishop’ on here … and sorry Steven, but although I also enjoyed the Bishop … I LOVED ‘Back On Murder even more!)

Book Cover Review
Grungy, gritty … it just works. The author crafted a great book full of realism and flaws and the cover artist has done well to capture that feeling.  Even the title itself is not free of rust and harsh texture.  The use of bold black against a caution sign yellow is also a nice touch.  Without the rough textures added into it, the yellow would be too strong, but instead it enhances a sense of danger – perfect for a murder novel.  I will say that before I read the book I wasn’t sure about the photo at the top of the front cover.  You can tell it is two people, likely at sunrise … but not really sure what they are doing except walking toward the light.  I’m not sure if the figures are large enough to draw a new reader in?

After reading it, I can say that the photo is a good fit(though there might be a stronger one out there?), as the picture seems to embody that a new day, and a new perspective are on the rise for Roland March.  He’s ‘back on the beat’ and hitting his stride again.  However, to capture the interest of first time readers I think that element of the cover is probably a little small?  The large grungy block letters might intrigue them enough to pick it up if they are already a murder mystery reader (or the prominent Houston detective badge on the spine) … but it’s actually the text on the back cover, rather than the image on the front, that will entice them to buy it.

The cover and the writing in this book would appeal to all mystery lovers – men and women alike.  If you can’t turn off shows like Law & Order, Cold Case, Numb3rs and the like then this book will be a great fit for you … [Have I mentioned it’s really great yet? LOL!] I am considering buying extra copies to give away as gifts. It is THAT good.

*I wish to thank the author for providing this book for me to review.  I absolutely enjoyed it, and I hope that it is the first of many great Roland March mysteries to come! (Sorry it took me a little while to get the review posted. I’ve been backlogged with freelance work of my own this month!)

Christian fiction, Christian suspense

Book & Cover Review of "The Bishop: a Patrick Bowers Thriller" by Steven James

The Bishop (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 4)
Book Review
The Bishop (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 4) revolves around FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers, his step daughter Tessa or ‘Raven’, and how their lives are impacted by the newest case he has been assigned … as well as their own personal complex life situations. This suspense novel is the 4th in a series surrounding Agent Bowers, and is part of an 8 book series named after a chess theme (it was preceded by the publishing of The Pawn, The Rook, and The Knight.)

During his launch party hosted earlier this week, author Steven James stated “When I approach a new book I always let a deep moral question drive the story forward. For example, in The Bishop, the question was ‘What makes humans different from animals?’ It led me to some surprising conclusions. I don’t set out to teach a lesson but to bring up issues and questions about the human condition that matter. I do learn as I write and it give ms a good place to sort through what I believe.”

 In The Bishop, this moral question is wrapped up in the chase of two very strong and complex villains who are ‘scary good’ at their own form of detached and evil game play. Additionally, the book covers the topics of teen angst, stepfather/stepdaughter relationships, job tensions, and multiple love interests.

As I read the book I kept asking myself … if you were surrounded by death and murder in your work life and your personal life were also filled with more than the average amount of complex situations, how would you cope with the stress? A great read, and very hard to put down!  I have not yet read the first three books in this series and found that I was able to enjoy this book as a stand alone read.  I also feel that the book would appeal to both male and female readers who love suspense.

Book Cover Review
This fourth book features the same blocky embossed text that is typical of suspense/thriller novels in both the ABA and CBA markets.  The dark background allows the bright white and yellow titles to stand out in an eye-catching combination. The damaged Bishop chess piece is mysterious and alludes to a sinister game being played. The dark earth, half-buried skull and purple fog-laden tree trunks match up well with one of the most memorable scenes in this novel. This cover is aptly dark and sinister, and is paired well with writing that is equally intense and hard to put down. The cover will appeal to anyone who likes to read suspense and/or murder mysteries – whether male or female.

* This book was provided to me by the publisher, Revell Publishing, for review.