Monday, June 6, 2016

The Burning Times

So, as I was finishing up my last book, one of my coworkers handed me a paperback she'd just finished, insisting I read it. That wound up being Silent Killer by Beverly Barton, which bills itself as a romantic thriller. Which is to say it's a soapy romance novel with a very good mystery going on between the romances.

We start with one Cathy Cantrell enjoying a lazy afternoon with her pastor husband when the doorbell rings. Mark, the husband, answers, and promptly gets covered in gasoline and set on fire. Which is really one heck of a way to start a book off.

And since this is a mystery, Mark isn't the only man of the cloth to get lit throughout the narrative by whom the Police in northern Alabama refer to as the Fire and Brimstone Killer.

Into this mix we add Jackson Perdue, a former Dunmore resident moving home to take care of his parents' house, which is sister can't sell. Jack, a retired Army Ranger with scarring from being both a POW and being near an explosion has a bit of a past with the widow Cantrell, who herself is returning to Dunmore following a year of intensive therapy following a nervous breakdown.

Let's see. We get a few insights into the killer's motives, as occasionally they narrate what they plan to do next. Mostly it's some of the more violent bible verses, punishing the hypocritical men of God with God's fire, etc.

By far the biggest issue I had here was the sheer number of characters floating around. Cathy has a son, Seth. Seth has several friends, some from different families. Half the small town seems to be involved in running a church of some kind of another. Everyone is drinking decaf coffee and sweet tea. There's also a subplot involving Jack's sister Maleah, who evidently is the focus of the previous 9 books in this series, that has absolutely nothing to do with preachers spontaneously combusting. 

On the other hand, the mystery is well written, the clues add up in the end, and there are enough Red Herrings to fill a season of Scooby Doo. Kind of sad, when the killer is at last revealled, I was in the right family, but had pegged the wrong member. I also had guessed at one of the major plot twists in the romance, although that reveal actually was quite emotional.

It was a good read, but I feel as though I missed something in not reading any of the previous 9 novels.