The Crystal Cavern – by Hannah Alexander (2003)

The Crystal Cavern

If you’re in the mood for a good who-dunnit mystery, this is an excellent choice. Sable Chamberlain, a small-town doctor, and a paramedic, Paul Murphy, are looking into the recent death of her grandfather. While they are trying to find out what happened, they are framed for his murder and end up fleeing town on a cross-country bus.

An ice-storm hits, and Jerri, the bus driver, struggles to keep the vehicle on the road. Conditions worsen, and they can’t keep going. Fortunately, they are within walking distance of Sable’s childhood home, so the seven people aboard abandon the bus and hike to the house. There they discover that Craig, a longtime neighbor, is taking care of the house. The electricity is out, but there is a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking.

This is no ordinary house. The basement has an entrance to underground caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Sable and Craig have explored the caves as children, and know them like the back of their hands. The rest of the group see the caves as dangerous. They are trapped in the country house for days as they wait out the storm. Weird things start happening, and it becomes obvious that one of them is a killer – but who is it?

Note: This book was later re-printed under the title “Hidden Motive” .

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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.

The Splitting Storm – by Rene Gutteridge (2004)

The Splitting Storm

 

“The Splitting Storm” follows the prequel “The Gathering Storm”. The novel begins with Mick Kline, FBI special agent, trying to determine who killed his brother Aaron. There doesn’t seem to be any motive for the murder, and there are no leads in the case. But Mick is not a man to sit back and wait for someone else to solve the case.

I enjoyed the psychological aspect to this novel. The mind is an infinitely complex organ, one that can be used for brilliance or for great harm. The story reminded me that while we can try to guess what’s going on inside someone’s head, only God truly sees the pain each person has been through, and what thoughts are in their mind.
Excerpt from page 93:

Mick’s jaw tightened at the thought. Guilt for simply being alive beckoned him into deeper sorrow. Aaron had always been the good son. The son of integrity. The man whom everyone looked up to. Including Mick, through it took years for Mick to admit it. Mick owed so much to his brother, and now the most he could do for him was find out who took his life. It would do nothing but provide justice, which was obsolete to a man who no longer breathed.

Storm Gathering – by Rene Gutteridge (2005)

Storm Gathering

 

“Storm Gathering” is a tale of two brothers, Mick and Aaron. All his life Mick has thought of Aaron as the “good” brother, the one with a successful career in the local police force, the one who married the woman he wanted. Mick sees himself as the “bad” brother”, the one who came back from Vietnam with nightmares and a drinking problem. Aaron is a man of faith, but Mick is angry with the Almighty for the way his life turned out.

One evening Mick finds a young woman – Taylor – that he really feels comfortable talking with. He goes home with her, and wakes up to find himself lying on the floor and Taylor missing. It isn’t long before he is accused of kidnapping her. Mick will do anything to prove his total innocence, including conducting his own investigation and becoming a fugitive. Fortunately, Mick has God and a cop named Shep looking out for him.

Note: This book is a prequel to the novel “The Splitting Storm”

Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels – by Mindy Starns Clark (2003, 2011)

Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels

Callie Webber is a PI who works for a wealthy philanthropist she has never met, investigating people and organizations he is thinking of donating money to. It’s Callie’s job to determine if they are worthy of the gift. In addition to her regular job, Callie spends time helping battered and abandoned women get back on their feet. One of the women is accused of murdering her boyfriend, but Callie simply can’t believe that she did it, and starts her own investigation.

I enjoyed this mystery, both for what it contained and what it didn’t contain. There was no vulgar language or behavior, and no grizzly descriptions of dead bodies. What the story did contain was a young woman who converses regularly with God throughout the day, whether she is frustrated or terrified or happy. Callie relies on God, not just on her own strength. This is a refreshing read for anyone wanting a clean mystery.

Shoofly Pie – by Tim Downs (2003)

Shoofly Pie

“Shoofly Pie” introduces us to forensic entomologist Nick Polchak, aka “the Bug Man”. Nick’s whole life is devoted to studying and understanding every type of fly or insect. His dream is to discover some unknown insect. His adoration of bugs tends to put people off a bit, but it’s hard not to admire a guy so devoted to his line of work.

Into the story comes Kathryn, who has lost a dear childhood friend, supposedly to suicide. But she can’t bring herself to believe he would take his own life. So she hires the Bug Man to investigate, much to the irritation of the local police chief. I loved Nick’s clever ways of questioning people, and getting to the bottom of things. If you enjoy this book as much as I did, there are five more Bug Man mysteries!

Bug Man novels include:
1 – Shoofly Pie
2 – Chop Shop
3 – First The Dead
4 – Less Than Dead
5 – Ends Of The Earth
6 – Nick Of Time