Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Review: Acadia by Sandy Dengler (Jack Prester #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Real characters and a complicated mystery
Cons: A few dated elements reflecting when it was originally written
The Bottom Line:
Beauty mixed with death
Jack navigates politics
Searching for killer

Harsh Death of a Beauty in Acadia

While I had been to Death Valley, the location for the first book in the Jack Prester series, I hadn’t even heard of Acadia National Park before I picked up the second in the series.  Hey, give me a break, it was 20 years ago and I was in college.  After reading Acadia, I was ready to go visit.  While I haven’t made it there yet, my desire to visit was just as strong after rereading the book.

Jack Prester is a trouble shooter at large, going to whatever National Park needs his help to solve a problem.  This new job finds him solving all kinds of murders at various parks, and it’s a great way to visit if you can’t go in real life.  Originally published in the early 1990’s, the author has recently rereleased them in the Kindle format.

Modeling is not as glamourous as it might appear.  The four models on this shoot for Sitting Pretty are modeling spring and summer clothes against the beautiful backdrop of Acadia Nation Park in Maine.  The problem?  It’s the middle of October and the temperatures are dropping.  And that’s before one of the models is found floating face down in the bay, the object of foul play.

With local police and National Parks personnel fighting over jurisdiction, Jack Prester, is brought in to try to smooth things over.  His job is to help hunt for the killer while making sure that the various agencies are sharing all pertinent information with each other.  Since he wants someone on the inside, he requests that Ev Brant, his partner in the recent case in Death Valley, go under cover taking the place of the dead model to assist him.  But with the personalities of the crew and other models, is Ev now a target?  Will the warring jurisdictions leave the killer free to strike again?

There is lots happening in this book, and the pages just fly by as a result.  I did remember who the killer was going into the reread, but I was completely stumped when I read it the first time 20 years ago.  Knowing who it turned out to be, I spotted clues I had missed before, although I also appreciated the red herrings along the way.  There are several sub-plots that are just as interesting as the main plot, and the conflicts between the various agencies also adds to the mix well.

The result is a lot of characters, all but three of them new, yet I never had a hard time keeping all of them straight.  They are all real people, which just adds to the fun of the book.  This was really driven home to me half way through the book, although that passage didn’t affect me quite as much as it did the first time I read it.  We get to see some real growth for Jack and Ev, which is nice as well.

This is a Christian mystery, meaning some of the characters, including Jack, are Christians, while others aren’t.  I found that it added some depth to the characters and the story.  I also never felt like I was being preached at by any element in the book.

Having originally been published 20 years ago, there are some dated elements.  There are no cell phones (although something tells me that cell phones wouldn’t work in this park anyway).  And the photographers on the shoot use cameras with real film.  Just keep the original publication date in mind and you’ll be fine.

I’ve been enjoying revisiting Jack and Ev and looking at their cases years later.  The books are just as good as I remember them being.  Now, I just need to find time to visit Acadia in person.  If only it wasn’t on the other side of the country.

NOTE: This book was originally published in paperback as A Model Murder.

You enjoy visiting a variety of National Parks with the Jack Prester Mysteries in order.

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

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