Friday, April 17, 2015

Book Review: Grand Canyon by Sandy Dengler (Jack Prester #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Continued character growth in a fast paced story
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Long awaited book
Continues character growth
In thrilling story

Jack Takes a Personal Case at Grand Canyon

Sandy Dengler has long been a favorite author since the time I started reading her books in high school.  In fact, the Jack Prester series was one of the first mysteries aimed at adults I read.  I’d long known that she had written a fifth book in the series that didn’t get published back in the 1990’s with the rest of the series.  Thanks to the advent of epublishing, the book has now seen the light of day.  Grand Canyon is a wonderful next installment in the series.

Jack Prester works for a special program in the National Park service.  He travels from park to park helping out with crises.  Over the course of the series, we’ve also watched Evelyn Brant go from city slicker budget analysis brought in to help with the first case to full-fledged partner and potential love interest.

Jack’s latest case hits too close to home when his friend Ernie Morales is gunned down outside the visitor center in Grand Canyon.  Naturally, he takes the case and his partner Ev Brant, shows up to try to keep him from ruining the case by getting too personally involved.  Unfortunately, Jack also has to contend with his father and Ernie’s father both attempting to interfere with the case.

When a tourist couple is gunned down, things seem to be heating up and the race is on to find the killer before he or she kills again.  However, Ev makes a startling observation about the tourist couple.  Is she right and what does it mean if she is?

Here’s where I have a confession to make.  Mrs. Dengler actually sent me this book as files on a CD a few years ago.  I immediately dropped everything and read it, but only decided to reread and review the series when I saw that she had put them out for Kindle.  It’s been interesting rereading it in context.

I mentioned earlier that those early books in the series were some of the first mysteries written for adults that I read.  I also wasn’t doing as much reading thanks to college, so those books really stand out in my mind.  I remembered specific lines, scenes, and plot points.  Even though it’s only been about four years since I read this book, I didn’t have that same memory of the story here.  I remembered a couple of plot points, but I couldn’t have told you who the villain was, for example.  I found that an interesting statement in how the mind works.

That also means I found the plot just as interesting and thrilling as I did before.  There’s a twist in the second half that makes this book different from many of the books I read, and I enjoyed that.  I got so caught up in things the second time through that I had a hard time stopping when I had to return to real life.  As always, the story makes perfect sense by the time we’ve reached the end.

If I’d reviewed this book after I first read it, I would have told you the character development was good.  However, now that I’ve read the book so soon after having read the previous books, I find the character development is even better.  Yes, it’s the natural next step in the arcs we’ve been witnessing, but it feels real and natural for who these characters are and the story that is unfolding.  The new characters are also quite interesting and helped pull me in to the story.

I’ve always loved Mrs. Dengler’s writing.  I am in awe of it once again.  She paints such vivid pictures of the Grand Canyon that it made me long to visit again.  Heck, she even made me want to go down into the valley and see some of what she describes from down there.  She also slips in some fun observations into the narration.  While the early part of the book is told from Jack’s limited third person point of view, she opens it up later in the book to other characters, allowing for some of the character development I talked about.

I do feel the need to point out a couple of things.  First, a by standing dog is killed along with the victim in the opening scene.  This is a Christian mystery series, although that isn’t a strong element until the second half of the book.  Even then, it never over shadows the mystery.  Finally, for those who might pick it up expecting a clean Christian mystery, there is some foul language.

One final thing.  The first four books in the series came out in the early 90’s, and this book was originally written then.  I have not read the epublished versions of those books, so I don’t know what kind of updating might have been done to them.  With this book, I did notice a couple of references to cell phones and the internet.  It’s not a major part of the story, but something I found interesting.

I’d always felt that the story wasn’t complete for these characters after the fourth book ended, so I am glad to get the resolution I wanted in Grand Canyon.  While it makes a good stand alone, it is much better in the context of the series.  If you haven’t started the series yet, do so today.  You’ll enjoy this tour of the National Parks.

And if you need to back up to read Jack and Ev's earlier adventures, here are the Jack Prester Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book.  No discussion of a review was made since at the time, there was no place for me to review it.

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


  1. So, it's not a real book, only an electronic file? Too bad, sounds pretty good.

    1. All five books in the series are available for Kindle. The first four are available used in trade paperback as well.

  2. Hello,
    I first read the series (4 books) back when they were published in the 90's and I'm rereading them again. When searching for answers as to what happened to Jack and Ev, I emailed Mrs Dengler. She emailed me back and now I have my answer. This is a really good series. The characters are developed well and the story line keeps me wanting to see what happens next. You can't ask for a better read that just plain ole fun. I'm planning on purchasing all 5 for the Kindle in the next month. For now tho, I'll relish in the printed copies I have that still look new.