Deadly Devotion is the first installment in a new mystery series–Port Aster Secrets–by Sandra Orchard, an award-winning author of Christian romantic suspense. She majored in math in college and home-schooled her children. A mom and grandmother, she lives in Niagara, Canada with her husband of twenty-five+ years. Learn more about her books and bonus features at SandraOrchard.com.
(A version of the following was first published as a featured review for Novel Crossing.)
About this book: Research scientist Kate Adams and her colleague Daisy are on the brink of a breakthrough for treating depression with herbal medicine when Daisy suddenly dies. Kate knows that if it hadn’t been for Daisy’s mentorship, she wouldn’t have the job she loves or the faith she clings to. So when police rule Daisy’s death a suicide, Kate is determined to unearth the truth.
Former FBI agent Tom Parker finds it hard to adjust to life back in his hometown of Port Aster. Though an old buddy gives him a job as a detective on the local police force, not everyone approves. Tom’s just trying to keep a low profile, so when Kate Adams demands he reopen the investigation of her friend’s death, he knows his job is at stake. In fact, despite his attraction to her, Tom thinks Kate looks a bit suspicious herself.
As evidence mounts, a web of intrigue is woven around the sleepy town of Port Aster. Can Kate uncover the truth? Or will Tom stand in her way?
Judge this book by its cover? I did. Yes.
Reminds me of…Nancy Drew
Buy or borrow? Either, depending on how big a mystery fan you are.
Why did I read this book? For Novel Crossing for review.
Would I read another by this author? I would, yes.
My take: From its first lines, Sandra Orchard drops her readers into conflict-fueled action—so much so that I initially wondered if I was reading Book 2 of a series. (I wasn’t.) The story opens straight into the heart of the mystery: Who killed Daisy and why? Unlike many murder mysteries, the crime has already been committed, which allows readers to immediately engage with the well-developed characters, who possess plenty of intriguing hurts and hang-ups to overcome. The small-town Canadian setting also makes for an appealing change of place.
Orchard writes a quickly paced mystery in an engaging, straightforward style, with just enough zest to add flavor but not distraction. (“Her stomach was more scrambled than her morning eggs.”) Her story is carried by two distinct voices, belonging to Tom and Kate, which allows their growing mutual attraction to unfold naturally. Although the spiritual themes are overt and clearly meant for a Christian audience, they do flow fairly naturally from the characters and their circumstances.
It did seem odd that Kate’s BFF’s fiancé remains so far off-stage for most of the book–with the wedding two weeks away (and Kate the maid of honor), you’d think he’d show up a little more. Some of the plot twists also border on melodramatic—especially the cliffhanger chapter endings.
Readers will have to be patient as they wait for Book 2 and the continuation of Tom and Kate’s nicely developing romance. They’ll also have to wait for complete resolution to this plot, for though the mystery is solved, justice remains incomplete.
Though there’s not much sophisticated about this novel, Orchard proves her deft touch and experience as a storyteller. With its light tone, small-town setting and thread of romance, Deadly Devotion reminds me of a contemporary Nancy Drew mystery for grownups.
Thanks to Novel Crossing and Revel for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
Were you a Nancy Drew fan? Or of the Trixie Belden or Bobbsey Twin series? Some of my fondest childhood memories involve the hours I spent curled up in the company of these faves. How about you?