November 16, 2011

J. Mark Bertrand, Pattern of Wounds

I love to read fiction, as well as non-fiction (and Tony Reinke's Lit! gives some good reasons for Christians to do just that, though for me, one key reason is simply that I love to read a good story). And I love to read fiction that engages with Christian themes, which sometimes means reading "Christian fiction," though that's a difficult category to nail down for sure. When offered a review copy of Mark Bertrand's second book, I thought it looked intriguing and decided to take it on, and I'm glad I did. Pattern of Wounds is the second "Roland March Mystery" from Bertrand. I haven't yet read the first, but my interest is certainly piqued. In this relatively classic who-done-it, a girl is found brutally murdered and grotesquely positioned near her landlord's swimming pool. The pursuit for the killer starts out routine enough, but quickly intertwines with one of March's earlier cases which is now being challenged on appeal, and is soon intertwined with a possible serial killer case connecting dozens of deaths around Texas. Suspects come and go, and the case heats up when March's wife is brutally attacked in his house. The action builds to a series of discoveries that break open the case. Pattern of Wounds is published by Bethany House, putting it squarely in the traditional "Christian fiction" world, but it breaks out of the mold in a number of ways. The most prevalent way is that its main character, Roland March, isn't a Christian but is instead a skeptic, sometimes ignoring and sometimes wrestling with his wife's faith. And while Christian themes are present, in sometimes powerful ways, it's not preachy, and there are no facile or obvious conclusions drawn. March comes off as an honest character, and an authentic one. And the book is better for it. I greatly enjoyed Pattern of Wounds, a thoughtful, plausible, and authentic murder mystery with much to offer. I'm glad to recommend it. Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.

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