Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: Mount Rainier by Sandy Dengler (Jack Prester #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Very strong characters and a good mystery with great use of Christmas songs
Cons: A couple elements near the end don’t quite work for me
The Bottom Line:
Murder with no clues
How can Jack find the killer?
While racing Christmas

The Main Suspect is a What?

When I decided to start rereading the Jack Prester mysteries earlier this year, I realized if I timed it right, I could read the third one at Christmas.  Mount Rainier finds Jack racing Christmas to solve a case that isn’t coming together, and I enjoyed getting to reread this book.

This series follows Jack Prester, an investigator at large for the National Parks and Ev Brant, who has become his unofficial fellow investigator.  While it is a full time job, Jack never expected to be sent out on this many cases, since this is the third murder he’s has to investigate in a very short period of time.

When two hikers find a body on Mount Rainier, Jack Prester finds himself driving up to Washington State.  The victim is John Getz, a man who had dedicated himself to preserving wild lands – to the point that he wanted to close the national park to people.  Among the suspects are a druid that believes the mountain is sacred and an activist who wants wheelchair access to the very top.  Plus the victim had made enough waves that the park rangers didn’t really like him either.

However, when Jack and his partner, Ev Brant, arrive in the park, they hear an even wilder theory.  One local insists the park is home to a Bigfoot.  Jack is quick to dismiss it, but with no evidence coming together, it still remains the best theory.  With Jack’s Christmas plans to visit family in Hawaii in danger, can he find any clues that will solve this case?

With the first two books in the series, I remembered who the killer was going into the book.  That wasn’t the case here.  However, about half way through, I remembered the solution.  That’d didn’t keep me from enjoying the remainder of the book, however, since I didn’t remember many of the details.  The story moves forward well.  I could see an argument that the plot slows down a little near the end to wrap up some sub-plots, but since those sub-plots have been fairly active parts of the book, I actually found myself caught up in those scenes, too.  And if the pages were flying by, I’m not really going to complain too loudly.

I’ve got to say that this has some of the strongest characters in the series to date.  While a few of them come across as caricatures early on, they are fleshed out well before the end.  And yes, this even applies to the druid, which is quite impressive considering this is a Christian novel.  While Jack obviously disagrees with that other character’s religion, it is always treated with respect.

There are really only two characters we’ve seen in all the books (three if you count Jack’s god Maxx).  I remember being impressed with how Ev had grown the first time I read them, and I’m equally impressed now.  She’s made quite a change in the few months since we first met her, and it is definitely for the better.  And Jack?  He spends most of this book in a funk, which is resolved in the scenes I talked about earlier.

Speaking of which, this has the strongest Christian sub-plot and message of the series to date.  Personally, I loved that aspect of the book.  However, it could easily be a turn off to some people.

What did bother me was a few aspects of the ending.  No, I don’t think we’re left up in the air or anything like that, but there are a couple of things I just don’t like.  I’m not going to get into any of that since it would be a spoiler.  You’ll just have to read it and see what you think yourself.

As far as the Christmas element goes, one thing I still love about this book is the chapter titles.  Every single one is the name of a Christmas carol.  Some fight very easily into the story while others are a bit more labored, but it is extremely fun and helps add to the Christmas feel of the story.

While a few elements keep Mount Rainier from being as strong as the first two in the series, it is still quite a good read that will please fans of the series or good mysteries in general.

NOTE: This book was originally published in 1994 in paperback as Murder on the Mount.

Looking to visit more National Parks with Jack?  Heck out the Jack Prester Mysteries in order.

And this is an entry for this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

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