Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie

I downloaded this nook book when it was a free offering from Abingdon in late October. There are so many free books that it takes a long time for me to get around to reading those I've already downloaded, but I was attracted to this book because it was a Christian murder mystery, which is what I'm writing. It's always smart to check out the competition. :-)

The reviews I've read of this book tend to be at one extreme or the other. Readers either love it or hate it. Generally those who hate it object to the number of murders for a Christian book. That's almost right. The real problem is that this book is in a cozy voice, which means the murder usually takes place offstage, there's not a lot of violence, and the stories are generally character driven. Villains aren't really, really bad guys in cozies. At least, we don't feel like they're bad guys through most of the book. But the murderer in this book is a serial killer who not only kills dozens of people in this book, but has killed multiple people in other cities before. Serial killers and cozy mysteries don't fit together well. The reader is left with this disjointed feeling. My best description of how I felt when I finished the book was "Huh."

The story is told from three different viewpoints: Cindy, a church secretary, Jeremiah, a rabbi, and Mark, a police detective. Unfortunately, no matter which point of view a chapter is told from, they all sound alike. At first I thought the author was slipping out of the point of view of one character into that of another but the more I read, the more I realized that wasn't true. If a story is told from more than one point of view, each character has to be reflected in the language, the sentence structure, and the attitudes of the telling of events. That wasn't the case in this book.

Last of all, there's a concept attributed to the Russian playwright Anton Chekov which (roughly) states that if you have a gun on the wall in the first act, you'd better have someone use it by the third act. "The Lord is My Shepherd" violates the converse of this, i.e., if you have a gun in the third act, you'd better set it up in the first act. It's not a gun in this book, but something unlikely happens without having any reason given either in the current scene or, better yet, having been set up earlier in the book. I don't want to spoil the plot by explaining too much, but that kind of thing made me immediately downgrade my opinion of the story.

I have mixed feelings about this mystery. It's not a bad book, but the writing level isn't quite there yet. I can see where the author might develop into a good mystery writer, but this novel didn't appeal to me enough to make me want to read future books of hers.
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