BOOK REVIEW: Pattern of Wounds, by J. Mark Bertrand

In his second novel about the homicide detective Roland March, author Mark Bertrand brings the oxymoronic Christian murder-mystery to life in Pattern of Wounds.  Rushing through the Christmas season in a noose-tightening suspense and breakneck pace, the detective hardly pauses for sleep.  The gentle process of his spiritual questioning fits the few moments allotted for reflection.  Bertrand winds the story through gritty patches of current crime scene investigations, a deepening trail that looks suspicious for serial murder, and his past experiences with an unsolved family crime.

There was no putting this book down: it had all the raw detail of a CSI episode, while improving plot variations and character development, and minimizing repetitive visual trauma.  The crime remained reprehensible, but no nightmares resulted.  I found Bertrand’s alliterations clever: (describing a walk in downtown Houston), “…passing one, two, three abstract sculptures nestled in among the corporate logo, I feel like an ant in a redwood forest, awed by the imbalance of scale.”  His character sketches bring into piercing detail their subjects and solidify his detective’s evaluating eye:  “…a familiar looking stranger with a Fu Manchu mustache and a nickel-plated barbecue gun on his hip,” or my favorite: “Tammy stands there in a glittering red short-sleeved jacket, a cheap sequined wrapper for the squarish lump of her body.  She holds her hands toward me, her knuckles concealed behind a row of mismatched cocktail rings.”  I can just see her shopping at Ross.  And fitting in the word “zydeco“?  Pure vocabulary brilliance. Yes, you will have to look it up yourself.

While I revelled in the tight pace, authentic prose, I will note that those looking for an Amish romance or ‘Christianese‘ conversion will be disappointed.  This is simply well-written fiction about a tough work environment, with a heady pace.  God is mentioned briefly, faith is touched on gently, but no great leaps of change are made.

I was pleased to complete this book review for Bethany House Publishers, in return for my complimentary copy (which I will be keeping, though it deviates from my usual fare).  I give it 5 stars, and look forward to Mr. Bertrand’s next work.

Further Resources:

prior book, Back on Murder

 

J. Mark Bertrand

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Surprised by Oxford, A Memoir by Carolyn Weber

Surprised by Oxford, A Memoir, chronicles the semesters spent in graduate studies at Oxford University for Carolyn Weber’s graduate work in Romantic Literature.  Along the journey, as the title hints, she is gently drawn to the same faith as C.S.Lewis.  The story reels you in with snippets from the history of Oxford’s hallowed halls, descriptions of England‘s jeweled beauty, stirring quotes caught from her studies, and her personal passage of heart.  An eloquent love story of the most elemental nature, told in first-person prose, Carolyn weaves her history into ‘His’-story to her.

Beginning with an agnostic faith, Carolyn embodies the self-sufficient American as she completes undergraduate work, and finds herself the surprised recipient of a full scholarship to Oxford.  Her interactions bring her into a vibrant group of students and professors, and as the Michaelmas, Christmastide, and Hilary terms unfold, so does her discovery of God in the midst of her simple life.  Chapter 13 brought me tears as Carolyn re-thinks even the relationships dear to her, including fiance, mother, alcoholic father at Christmas, and her sister’s unquestioning love.  Finally, in Chapter 21 my breath is as ragged as a runner while following her final sprint from doubt to the grace of belief.  Throughout, her vague romance with a truly faithful fellow student (TDH, as she names him) bewitched me into an eager desire for the epilogue.  Sadly, the ending is disjointed, hesitant and a misfit with the rest of the well-thought out pattern of the book.  My theory is that she wrote it 14 years later, and had lost the flow of its writing whilst living life.  Overall, I still give this book 5 stars, and have already bought it for a good friend of mine, who will appreciate the depth of faith, sparkling quotes and tender love of both Saviour and TDH found here.  I highly recommend it then, and my hat is off to Carolyn for this valuable and tender story of God’s hand, outstretched in our life.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review, as part of the Booksneeze review blogger group.  You can join also!  Just click on the button at your right.