Monday, March 28, 2011

‘The Mountains Bow Down’ by Sibella Giorello – Book Review

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One of my favorite book genres is Christian suspense. The latest book I have read in that category is ‘The Clouds Roll Away’ by Sibella Giorello.

Here is the synopsis of this wonderful book:

Everything’s going to work out. Time away always makes things better…. That’s what FBI special agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, the Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who’s hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.
But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh’s vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship’s security chef tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh’s forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.
Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the RBI and receives her nemesis – handsome Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack – who might not be as arrogant as she originally thought.
And that’s only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.
Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a mystery so daunting that even the mountains bow down before it.

Here is the biography of this extremely talented author:

Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she began writing as a features writer for newspapers and magazines. Her stories won numerous awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her novel The Stones Cry Out won a Christy Award. She lives in Washington State with her husband and family.

Here is an Oasis Audio excerpt of this novel, wonderfully interpreted by Cassandra Campbell:

I love Sibella’s way with words! The book is written from Raleigh’s perspective. Here she is describing her mother, who is on the Alaskan cruise with her, as well as explaining why she ended up as an FBI agent:

Nadine Shaw Harmon, authentic Southern belle, might be politely described as “a bit touched.” Her bouts of paranoia struck with the sudden fury of August thunderstorms, and the torrential aftermaths kept me from telling her the truth about my job. Before becoming an agent, I spent four years in the FBI’s forensic lab, and both my dad and I agreed she didn’t need to know everything. My forensic work was in mineralogy; we told her I was a geologist. The was true. True enough. But one day somebody decided to shoot my dad, cutting him down in cold blood. His murder had never been solved, and I decided the most productive way to fill this gaping hole in my heart was to join the hunt for bad guys. When I graduated from Quantico, fatherless, with no mother in attendance, my personal life became one long covert op. (p. 26)

Raleigh seemed to have a love/hate relationship with her colleague, Jack Stephanson. This passage shows their relationship, as well as Raleigh’s at-times tricky relationship with herself:
       “Harmon, what’s going on?”
       “Just stick to the story, okay?”
       “But your mom thinks---”
        I picked up the pace.
But he stopped.
When I turned, he was standing in the hallway, looking genuinely
“She doesn’t know,” he said. “Your mother. She doesn’t know you’re an FBI agent.”
Unable to speak, I headed for the elevators and kept my head down, sending more desperate prayers for forgiveness, wondering when God would get as tired of me as I was. (p. 67)

It is clear from Mrs. Giorello’s writing style that she has a background as a reporter; her attention to detail is keen. Here is an example; it also showed her sense of humor:

Possibly it was the best bread I’d ever tasted. The light golden crust melted on my tongue, followed by the bread interior that was light as a marshmallow yet as rich as butter. I wanted to hum as we walked down a long tunnel. The ship’s employees rushed past us in various stages of hurry. Some carried bags of rice the size of toddlers. Others pushed steel carts stacked with folded tablecloths and napkins – fresh from the laundry room, no doubt – while men in coveralls wheeled small Dumpsters, trailed putrid odors. (p. 150)            

I also loved her descriptions throughout the book of the beauty of Alaska. Here is one that was particularly touching to me:

The mile-wide tongue of blue-and-white ice stretched five miles back, reaching up to a mountain peak that pointed straight to God. I heard Jack gasp, then gasp again as the front of the glaciers snapped and a falling block of ice the size of an office building plunged straight down into the water. In the bright sun, the ocean glistened like jewels. (p. 186)

As she did in ‘The Clouds Roll Away,’ Sibella writes about God’s creation in a thought-provoking – and beautifully written - way:

Deep inside, I could sense the unfathomable certainty that life did not rise randomly. By its own laws of mathematics and physics, the natural world disqualified itself from statistical accident. Planetary splendor above and atomic structure below, a world operating with breathtaking genius and design, all of this implying necessarily a designer. Chaos came in the moment, from my paltry human perspective, and most important of all, when the monsters roared, when I flailed haplessly through swamps, forever asking outsized questions, somebody stood ready to provoke comfort. (pp. 226-227)

I really appreciated this novel for so many reasons, many of which I previously reviewed above. Mrs. Giorello writes with intelligence, humor, and suspense; she keeps her readers turning the pages. I certainly did not get many other things done after I started reading this captivating book!

A couple other side notes: 1) the book cover is simply stunning; that alone makes me want to make a trip up to our 50th state; 2) I love the name ‘Sibella Giorello;’ how could she have not been an author with that name?!

I had the pleasure of reading the second book in the Raleigh Harmon series, ‘The Clouds Roll Away’ also; you can read my review here. I haven’t read the first book in the series, ‘The Rivers Run Dry,’ but, based on my enjoyment of these last two novels, I’d like to. Maybe someday I’ll have the time to go back to it!

The fourth book in the Raleigh Harmon series, ‘The Stars Shine On,’ will be released in April, 2012. There is no question that I will be reading that one, and hope the year passes quickly!  

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and provided by Thomas Nelson and the LitFuse Publicity Group for review purposes. I am happy to be participating in the blog tour with these others bloggers.


Barbara E Brink said...

I also loved Sibella's Raleigh Harmon series. Just so you know, and you can go back and read it too, there are already four books out. The first one was "The Stones cry out." So now you have two books to go back to:) They are all very good. Sibella certainly knows how to write wonderful prose and spin a suspenseful tale while doing it.
I enjoyed your review, Andrea.

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi, Barbara. Thanks for the clarification. I will have to go back; think how much I've missed!
Thanks for dropping by - & for the kind words!

Anne Payne said...

Once again, I just love how you write a review! I have GOT to read this book :)

Andrea Schultz said...

Thanks, Anne! If you order books, I'd appreciate if you'd order through the Amazon links embedded in my reviews!
Thanks -

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