Sunday, January 9, 2011

‘Deceit’ by Brandilyn Collins – Book Review

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One of my favorite genres in fiction is suspense (preferably Christian suspense). One of the premiere authors in that style is Brandilyn Collins. Believe it or not, I have not read one of her novels - until now. I recently had the pleasure of reading ‘Deceit.’

Here’s the synopsis of this suspenseful novel:

Skip Tracer Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed his second wife – and Joanne’s best friend – seven years ago. But Jackson, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man. The police tell Joanne to leave well enough alone, but Joanne is determined to bring Jackson home. Using her skip tracing skills, she sets out to locate Melissa Harkoff, now twenty-two, who lived in the Jackson home at the time of Linda Jackson’s disappearance.
As Joanne drives home on a rainy winter night, a hooded figure darts in front of her car. In her headlight beams she glimpses the half-concealed face of a man, a rivulet of blood jagging down his cheek. She squeals to a stop but clips him with her right fender. Shaking, she gets out of her car in the pouring rain. The man will not let her see his face. Before he limps off into the night he warns her not to talk to the police.
As Joanne tries to find Melissa, someone seems to be after her. Who was the man she hit on the street? Is Baxter Jackson out to silence her? Or is some other skip she’s traced in the past now out for revenge?

Here’s the biography of this author:

Brandilyn Collins, known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense, is the bestselling author of Violet DawnCoral Moon, Crimson Eve, Eyes of Elisha, and other novels. She and her family divide their time between the California Bay Area and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Here is Brandilyn talking about her writing and how she comes up with ideas for her novels:

This book alternates between 2010 and 2004, when Melissa joins the Jackson family. The chapters set in the present feature the first person voice of Joanne Weeks.

In the opening chapter, Joanne expresses concern about the circumstances surrounding the death of Baxter Jackson’s second wife:

“Sometimes people don’t want to see the truth, Dineen.” I rinsed the plates, the water hissing. “Autopsy finding are open to interpretation. To say all those bruises and contusions on Cherisse’s head didn’t match a fall down the stairs would be calling Baxter Jackson a liar. Maybe Bud didn’t want to believe that.”
Or maybe his ruling was far more sinister. Baxter Jackson was the richest man in Vonita and practically ran the town. He sponsored a Little League baseball team and personally paid for Vonita’s Fourth of July fireworks. He was everybody’s best friend. Nobody in the county ever spoke against Baxter.
Except me. (p. 16)

Sixteen year old Melissa’s description of Baxter upon their first meeting is interesting – and telling:

Baxter wasn’t hot looking at all. He had a boyish face, kind of round, with thick, dark hair parted on the side. The hair looked totally eighties. He had brown eyes, and his jawline was a little soft. Sort of looked like a grown-up choirboy. But there was something about him. He wasn’t that tall, but he seemed to tower over Melissa, as if some power vibrated from his body. She’d found herself eyeing him, trying to figure him out. He was nothing but kind to her. Not coming on to her in any way. But what was it about him? In a huge party, you’d know when this guy entered the room. You’d feel it, as if the air changed. Magnetism, that was the word. He oozed it. (p. 31)

Joanne was in an interesting line of work – one of which I had never heard of before:

Fifteen years ago I’d forged my way into skip tracing while working in a private investigator’s office in San Jose. The work is exciting. But unlike the portrayal on trumped-up TV shows, most skip tracing is done online. I could stay warm and dry in my house while I chased Melissa through the teeming, winding halls of cyberspace. Sitting at a computer may not translate well into television, but I find it as exhilarating as a street car chase. It is all about the hunt. The rush of stalking down pieces of the puzzle, the adrenaline surge of closing in on the skip. Mere fingers on keys, hunched shoulders, and eyes glued to the screen can’t begin to portray the real-life drama that hinges on the outcome of a search. A skip located can completely change lives. It means a criminal apprehended, a child reunited with birth parents, the recipient of a surprise inheritance, money for the impoverished children of a deadbeat dad. It forges justice, dredges tears, spews anger, builds hope. (p. 48)

That sounds like an exciting job – perhaps a little too exciting for me!
Joanne had a strong faith, which she was not afraid to express:

I pressed against the front door, shoulders taut, and prayed. I’d prayed countless times for comfort when Linda disappeared, countless more for strength when Tom died. I believed in Jesus, my Savior. I believed in prayer.
I also knew being a Christian didn’t always keep you out of trouble. Look at Linda. Now look at me. (p. 65)

As time went on and Melissa spent more time with the Jackson, she made a decision about her future:

At that moment, her yellow-gloved hands holding a dirty plate, Melissa felt something crack within her. A feeling, a knowledge trickled out.
        She was better than this.
Melissa stilled, caught by the sensation within herself. Yes. She was better. She really could forget her past. Forget her abuse and the ratty trailer and her mom’s live-in men with roving hands. Staying in this house as a lowly foster child wasn’t enough, even if the house belonged to Baxter Jackson. Melissa could be somebody. She’d be better than Linda. Not just some wife of a rich man who claimed she saw beauty on the inside. Melissa would make her own money. Live in her own place. (p. 135)

There is nothing wrong with having ambitions. I just found it sad that Melissa did not come to the same faith as Linda and Joanne, who were both Christians, and instead strove for the things of this world.

Melissa did attend church with the Jacksons. But she was more distracted by the flawed and fallen people around her than dazzled by the perfect Savior:

In church on Sundays Melissa sat next to Linda (she didn’t dare sit next to Baxter) and listened to the sermons about living a Christian life in the twenty-first century. Linda would nod and Baxter mutters his amens. Talk about a disconnect. Those hours in church formed Melissa’s most confusing moments. Pastor Steve’s words pierced her soul more than once. He spoke of Jesus’ love, his forgiveness, his burning desire to set each person free of the past, no matter how bad it might be. There were times when Melissa yearned for that cleansing with aching intensity. The pastor’s promises of wholeness, of a new and stunning purpose that no circumstances could take away shone upon the wreckage of Melissa’s life like a beacon in roiling dark waters. But every time, the Jacksons’ secret would roll over her and drown the ache inside. They amened and nodded at the pastor’s every point. They projected everything the pastor talked about.
All lies.
How could Melissa stake her life on any of the pastor’s claims, no matter how bright they seemed, when she knew the truth about Baxter and Linda? (p. 209)

I really loved 'Deceit.' It is one of those books where you hope to have a large block of free time so you are able to read it in just a few sittings. Fortunately, I was able to do that. Even when I had to take a break, I wanted to get back into it to see what would happen next. It is definitely a page turner full of suspense and intrigue. And I did not see the ending happening as it did! I loved Brandilyn’s writing and storytelling abilities, and plan on pursuing other titles from this talented author!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan Publishers. An Advance Reading Copy was generously provided by the author. The page numbers included in this review may not match up to the final product (which is available now).


Trinity Rose said...

I've read a lot of books by Brandilyn Collins and have loved everyone. This is an especially fantastic one. Thanks for the review.
Trinity Rose

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Andrea, thanks so much for your insightful review. I'm glad you enjoyed DECEIT.

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Trinity Rose -
Thanks for stopping by to read and comment! You are definitely ahead of me in the Brandilyn reading curve!

Brandilyn -
Thanks for stopping by, also! And thanks for writing such a terrific book!

Blessings -


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