In the second book of Nancy Mehl's Finding Sanctuary series, Sarah Miller, the school teacher in Sanctuary, learns of her sister's murder and the horrible similarities it shows to their parents' deaths years before. However, the police seem loathe to draw any connection between the two, which are both being blamed on robberies gone wrong. Sarah and her friend deputy sheriff Paul Gleason decide to look over the cases to draw together enough evidence to make the case stay open, but in the meantime Sarah is dealing the difficulties that come with taking in her grief-stricken, orphaned niece. Should Sarah drop the case, like most people seem to want? Or should she put herself - and her niece - in danger by pursuing justice?
While this book focuses less on the Mennonites than the first of the series did, it still is a nice cross-genre book that combines contemporary suspense and mystery with the conservative values that characterize the plain people. It is encouraging to see a town so successfully operate with such a mix of peoples.
The author deals with the tough issue of taking care of a newly orphaned child in a believable way. Cicely is hurt and afraid, living with someone she only knows a little, and her actions reflect her insecurity. Even Sarah, who went through a similar situation in her own childhood, finds Cicely difficult to deal with. She can draw on her experiences to help understand her niece, but it doesn't keep her from being wounded every time Cicely lashes out.
While the romance is not as strong an aspect of the story as in other romantic suspense novels, I like how it is carried out. Sarah and Paul realize after a while that despite being attracted to each other and seeing each other frequently, all they ever talk about is Sarah's case - not exactly something to build a relationship on. So then they plan steps to get to know each other without any reference to the murders. They are wise in how they deliberately go into their courtship.
Mehl brings in several biblical principles, including the difference between revenge and justice, and, to a greater degree, the danger of comparing ourselves to others. And thank heaven for a sensible heroine who uses her head! (Sometimes, heroines of suspense novels make the most foolish decisions . . .) I found it a well-rounded book with a nice balance between suspense and mystery and spiritual growth, and the lighter dose of romance was perfect for this story, considering what the characters were going through.
Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for an e-copy to review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
1. Gathering Shadows
2. Deadly Echoes
3. Rising Darkness