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.
prior book, Back on Murder