Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Shadows of Lancaster County by Mindy Starns Clark

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters take you through a can't put it down mystery
Cons: None worth mentioning
The Bottom Line:
Mystery grabs you
Characters keep you engaged
And pages fly by

Anna Faces the Shadows of the Past and Present

After two highly entertaining mystery series, Christian author Mindy Starns Clark has started writing some stand alone mysteries.  Shadows of Lancaster County is the second of them.  It was another gripping read.

Anna Bailey changed her name and moved to California in an attempt to escape from a tragic accident in her past.  But it all comes rushing back to her with the ringing of the phone.  On the other end is her sister-in-law saying that her brother, Bobby, is missing.  Anna isn't inclined to rush back to Pennsylvania until someone breaks into her house, almost kills her roommate, and holds Anna at gun point demanding the Beauharnais Rubies, whatever those are.

Against her better judgment, Anna decides to make the trip back to Amish country and try to figure out what is happening.  Trying to dodge the media, she sets out to learn what she can.  But what happened to Bobby?  What secrets is he hiding?  And just want are those jewels?

This book took all of 10 pages to grip me.  Once that happened, all I could do was hang on for the ride.  The pacing in this book was perfect, giving us just enough new information to keep the story moving forward but not enough to give everything away.  I had a couple very minor issues with the ending, but they didn't even strike me until I was thinking about the book the next day.  That's how truly inconsequential they are.

Of course, if the characters weren't great, I wouldn't have cared about the outcome.  Anna is well rounded and sympathetic from the get go.  I kept changing my mind about the love interest (as we were supposed to), but he was always a strong character as well.  There are several Amish characters, and getting to know them and observing their way of life was fascinating. 

While there are some very strong Christian themes and characters, this isn't a book that preaches.  In fact, it is so well incorporated with the characters that it truly became a part of the story.  I'm not a fan of Christian fiction that stops telling the story to preach, but that wasn't the case here.

When I first started reading Mindy Starns Clark's books, I found the writing to be the weakest part.  But as I've read each book in order (this is her tenth novel), I've found things smoothing out.  That was certainly the case here.  This is the writing of a polish professional who knows how to weave her words.

All these elements combined for a super book.  Honestly, I had a hard time putting it down when it was time to do something else, and I found myself thinking about it in between times.  I read the second half in one day so I could learn how things turn out.

I have done nothing but rave about Mindy Starns Clark since I first found her books, and Shadows of Lancaster County continues the trend.  I just finished this one, but I am already looking forward to her next release.

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