Friday, February 3, 2017

Book Review: Cat Killer by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun Mysteries #1)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, exciting mystery
Cons: Villain a little easy to spot
The Bottom Line:
A car bomb murder
Mystery in the Phoenix heat
Enjoyable start




Explosive Start to This Series

I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t follow the traditional path most mystery readers take from Nancy Drew and the Hardys to Agatha Christie and other classics to modern mysteries.  Instead, I spent my Jr. High and High School days reading Christian fiction, much of it historical and some of it mysteries.  One author I loved who did both was Sandy Dengler.  Cat Killer is the first book in her Valley of the Sun series featuring Joe Rodriguez, a cop in Phoenix.

And this book starts with a bang – literally.  A car bomb goes off, killing Cat DuBois, a member of a traveling evangelism team headed by Persis Magen.  Since the team has just arrived in town, they bring with them a suspects, including Persis herself.

Soon Joe and his partner Tom are questioning if Cat was the intended target or not.  A second bomb and gunfire makes their suspect list also a list of potential targets.  Can the two detectives find the killer while keeping the suspects safe?

It’s been 20 years since I read this book the first time, yet I did remember who the killer was.  It was interesting watching that process this time around.  I think if I picked up the book today, I’d find the killer a little easy to pick out even if I hadn’t read it before.  However, that doesn’t mean the book isn’t fun.  There is plenty of excitement and some interesting red herrings on the way to the climax.

The number of characters might be a bit overwhelming at first since we meet the suspects and some of Joe and Tom’s co-workers pretty quickly.  Don’t panic.  We get plenty of time to know everyone as the book progresses.  After a couple of chapters, I felt right at home with the cast again, and I really didn’t remember who most of them were before I picked the book back up.  They are that strong, and their personalities help them stand out.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a Christian mystery.  Personally, I found that added layer added a nice touch to the book, and it made the villain’s motive a bit more heartbreaking.  Do keep that in mind when you pick up this book.

The copy I reread was from the original printing in the early 1990’s.  Back then, these were called the Mirage Mysteries.  Sandy Dengler has republished them as ebooks and changed the series name to the Valley of the Sun Mysteries.  But what’s in a name, right?

Obviously, with police as the detectives, this falls short of the typical cozy series as defined today.  However, this still features the rest of the elements of a cozy mystery, just with a bit of police department life added to the mix.

It was fun to revisit this series, and I’m hoping to spend more time with these characters this year.  If you are looking for a good Christian mystery, you will want to pick up Cat Killer.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

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