Camino Island – by John Grisham (2017)

Camino Island

When I heard that John Grisham’s newest novel was about valuable books that were stolen from a library, I thought: hey, just my kind of book – a book about books! And I didn’t even have to wait for months on a list to get it, as an express copy was available at my neighborhood library. It didn’t take long to dive into the story.

It begins with the heist. Five guys look to strike it rich by stealing original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, which are under lock and key at the Princeton library. They succeed, and then have the problem of where to sell their “hot” items. The FBI thinks they know where the manuscripts are being hidden, and recruits a female author (Mercer) with staggering college debts to get close to the suspect.

What I enjoyed most about the novel was the close-knit community of writers on the island. They hung around together, commiserated when someone’s book didn’t sell well, and even tried to help Mercer when she had writer’s block. That would be a wonderful sort of place to live in real life.

What I disliked was the shallowness of the characters, which could have been much more developed. The shallowness  made it hard to stay enthused about the story. Mercer was a flat character, always whining about how she couldn’t think of any good story-lines. Bruce, the bookstore owner and suspect, was obsessed with sleeping with as many women as possible and making a lot of money. None of the original thieves were very likable either.

The book overall was mediocre. Mr. Grisham has obviously used up all his best ideas on earlier books such as: The Firm, The Rainmaker, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Summons, and The Last Juror. (He is, however, doing a great job in recent years writing youth fiction – his Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer series.) His best work always seems to involve lawyers, legal matters, and courtrooms. He would do well to return to his specialty.

 

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True Light/Dawn’s Light – by Terri Blackstock (2007, 2008)

True Light   Dawn's Light

 

It’s been almost three-quarters of a year since the planet has been plunged back into darkness by a natural electromagnetic pulsar. There are none of the conveniences we take for granted, such as electrical lighting or indoor plumbing. Hope is on the horizon, though. The pulsars have finally ended, and the government is working on getting power grids working, and re-opening the bank system.

In “True Light”, it is the coldest part of the year, and people are struggling to find enough food to feed their families. Someone is willing to kill to get what he needs. It’s an incredibly difficult time for law enforcement. Without paychecks, most of the police force walks off the job. Much of the story focuses on Mark, a newly deputized officer trying to solve a case of murder in the woods, and keeping order in the town jail. Deni Branning is working for the local newspaper, which is up and running again. Doug and Kay, Deni’s parents, are becoming spiritual leaders in their neighborhood.

The last book in the Restoration series is “Dawn’s Light”. Deni has to decide whether she wants to pledge her love to Mark, or to Craig, her ex-fiance who unexpectedly shows up in town as a government worker restoring electrical service. Beth Branning, Deni’s younger sister, is an eyewitness to a terrible crime, but can’t tell anyone because she is afraid of retaliation against her family. Just when it seems that life is starting to get better for everyone, a medical emergency hits the Branning family. They go through the agony of every family that has had a child in a life-threatening situation. The ending of the series does not answer every question, but it reminds us that God walks with us through the difficult times of life on this earth.

 

Note: If you haven’t read the first two “Restoration” novels, you will want to read them first.

#1 Last Light
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/last-light-by-terri-blackstock-2005_/

 

#2 Night Light

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/night-light-by-terri-blackstock-2006/

 

 

 

True Crime: Michigan – by Tobin T. Buhk (2011)

True Crime Michigan

Want to read some bizarre true stories of crime in Michigan? Pick up this slim book at your public library and read up on some history you’ve probably never heard before. Read about the only king our state ever had, and what became of him. Read about our “wild west” days before we were even a state.

Think Columbine or Virginia State University were the worst school massacres in our country’s history? Think again. The deadliest school killing was right here in Michigan, in the small town of Bath. We also had a serial killer who attacked unsuspecting coeds. And then there was the Lonely Heart swindler, the reign of the Purple Gang, and of course the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

The book is a sampler of crime in our state, but doesn’t go so in-depth that the reader gets bogged down in detail. It gives just enough information that we know what happened, and how the police were able to solve the crime (well, except for Jimmy Hoffa). It’s also a reminder that no matter where you live, there is going to be crime.

Black Ice – by Linda Hall (2007)

Black Ice

Lenore Featherjohn runs a bed and breakfast place in the small town of Fog Point. In the middle of a snowy, icy winter, she discovers a teenage girl dead by her back door. She is afraid the police will blame one of her grown sons, so she moves the body. Lenore isn’t the only one in town trying to cover up something. An elderly man with Alzheimer’s has helped keep a secret for years. A minister’s wife pretends to have faith, while secretly doubting the existence of God. An adopted girl is quietly searching for her birth mother. Two news reporters are lying about who they are. There is deception from one end of town to the other end!

I loved the variety of characters the author created for this mystery. At first they all seem unrelated, but as the story progresses, you can see how everyone’s coverups are woven together like a spider web. Everyone is wearing a mask, projecting the illusion that they have their life together. Little by little, the truth is revealed, and more than one mystery solved. This is a fine novel that moves along at a good pace, and keeps the reader’s attention from the first page to the last.

 

They Shall See God – by Athol Dickson (2002)

They Shall See God

 

One little girl was a Jew, the other little girl a Christian. They played together, laughed together, and considered themselves to be sisters. Then came the day they were witnesses to a terrible crime. Their friendship was never quite the same.

The book began with Kate and Ruth as adults, one having gone into the ministry and the other raising a family and running an antique shop. Each of them thought the other walked away from the friendship, so when they met again, they both had chips on their shoulders. But they put aside their differences because of a common fear: the man they testified against in court as children had been released from prison.

The story did seem a bit disjointed at first as it jumped around between about half a dozen characters. But as it progressed, the pieces began to fit together. The book is about getting along with people of different religious beliefs, working to put a friendship back together, and finding out the truth about a crime, no matter how much time has gone by.