Five Books for Sleepless Nights
By Jennie Hansen
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Suspense fans are going to love Do No Harm by Gregg Luke. Luke is a practicing pharmacist who uses his professional expertise to write a gripping medical thriller. Readers will find a haunting similarity to Robin Cook’s style in this adrenaline-pumping suspense novel.
A young widower, Paul Randall, who is also a recent convert to the Church, feels a need to start a new life far from the constant reminders of the life he shared far too briefly with his deceased wife. Being a pharmacist, he jumps at the opportunity to purchase a pharmacy in a small town along the northern California coast. After sinking his entire savings into the business, he learns the town isn’t as idyllic as he had supposed. His concerns about rumors and fears voiced by some of his employees and customers bursts into a full blown nightmare when he rescues a young woman hiding under a bridge.
Bria Georgopolis wakes up one day to discover she is paralyzed and big chunks of her memory are missing. She’s a nurse and recognizes that the hospital where she finds herself is like no other hospital she’s ever seen before and that she’s more prisoner than patient. Sensing something is very wrong and that she is being lied to, she begins a secretive plot of her own to discover why she is there and to engineer an escape. Her search for answers is severely limited by her slow recovery of her physical abilities and close monitoring of her every word and movement.
Luke’s characters leave a lasting impression. All of the major players and quite a few minor ones develop and grow with the story, and the author gives each one multi-dimensional personalities and values. Their dilemmas feel real because of their conflicting needs, pasts, and pressures. The plot has sufficient curves to keep the reader guessing and even when the direction is obvious, as it is in a few places, the journey still keeps the reader on edge with heart pounding.
Pacing is excellent throughout the novel. Technical errors are few, though there are a few typos. There were a couple of intense scenes that felt a little over the top to me, yet I found Do No Harm to be both chilling and fascinating. I highly recommend it to all whose reading tastes include high suspense and medical thrillers.
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Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jenson was actually released in 2007. It is the story of Andy McBride and Louisa Martin, who meet in medical school at the University of Utah and fall in love, but a major obstacle stands in the way of their getting married and living happily ever after. Andy is a returned missionary with a strong commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Louisa feels just as strongly about the beliefs and traditions of her family in a polygamous community in southern Utah.
For four years they are best friends and acknowledge their feelings for each other while agreeing that after graduation, they will go their separate ways to do their residencies, then set up their practices. Accepting that neither is going to change his or her commitment to their religious convictions, they agree that following graduation, they won’t ever see each other again.
Andy winds up beginning his practice in the hill country of Kentucky, while Louisa returns to her small southern Utah town. Andy is lovingly accepted, though is often the target of practical jokers; faces a lot of misunderstanding about his religion, and he even manages to form a strong friendship with a Smoky Mountain healer. He also earns the enmity of a dangerous man by helping the man’s pregnant teenage daughter escape his life-threatening abuse and his son to find a job in another community.
Louisa too is welcomed at first with open arms, then she runs afoul of the Brothers as she struggles to help the women improve both their physical and emotional health. She also becomes alarmed over the high incidence of kidney abnormalities and other genetic conditions brought about by intermarriage with close family members within the small group. Eventually she is forced to leave the community.
A chance meeting at a medical convention doesn’t resolve their problems, but intensifies them until they find themselves part of the same small group of doctors participating in a foreign medical exchange.
Jensen proves she has a gift for writing with this novel which not only showcases her warm comfortable style, but presents a thought-provoking and interesting premise. She does a great job of portraying three different and distinct cultural communities. The background or settings used in this book are well-researched and key to the story. The setting becomes almost a character in the story. She paints none of the communities or people as perfect and goes to great lengths to portray the good elements in all three and point out that evil or bigotry exist in all three.
The story’s greatest weakness is in the doctrinal area, where the author implies that the only difference between the two Utah groups is in the way they carry out their shared beliefs. Her focus on their shared distant history ignores their very real doctrinal differences. One of the book’s strongest points is the way the gentle, loving upbringing of both major characters is carefully woven into the story.
Readers won’t forget this novel nor regret reading it. Unfortunately many potential readers will pass right by the low-key, blah cover. The story will appeal primarily to adult women. There are few technical errors, especially in the first half of the book, which is the stronger portion of the story. The last part becomes a little farcical in some places, but was probably fun to write.
Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys is an old folk song, unfamiliar to most people today, that in reference highlights a common misconception about Mormon values, an apt title for a story that deals heavily with misconceptions about Mormons, about polygamist groups, and about Kentucky hill people.
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Traci Hunter Abramson starts out Freefall with a vivid hostage scene and the action escalates from there. Amy Whitmore, a new state department employee, barely lands in a small Middle Eastern country when rebels over run the hotel where she is staying to take seven hostages captive, including her. A daring rescue by a Navy Seal extraction team is almost as shocking as the initial capture.
When gunfire cripples the rescue chopper and the pilot is forced to take evasive action, Amy is thrown from the helicopter. An alert SEAL, Lieutenant Brent Miller, grasps hold of her and is pulled part way out too. Other SEALs struggle to keep him from slipping farther. There’s no way to pull the two back aboard the chopper, which is rapidly losing fuel and still under fire. A decision is made to approach a roof top and drop the two onto it in order to try to save the other hostages.
Brent expects Amy to be scared, but spoiled and demanding too, since she is the daughter of a wealthy U.S. Senator from his own home state. Amy proves to be a complete surprise and not at all as he expects. A grueling and dangerous struggle to exit the country is just the beginning of his troubles. Explosives, biological weapons, and terrorists are in addition to dealing with Amy’s father, a disappointed former fianc, and his own highly developed senses of duty and honor.
Freefall is more than a fast-paced action novel. It’s a story of facing fears, dealing with insecurities, and taking charge of one’s own life. Both the female and male leads are strong characters. It also carries a subtle message that knowledge is freedom and that not everyone deals with crisis in the same way.
The author’s simple, direct style packs a strong wallop. The pacing is excellent and the plot absorbing. A former C.I.A. employee, the author’s intimate knowledge of Washington D.C. and the various security and intelligence branches of the government adds realism to the story. The characters are likable and realistic; they also grow as the plot develops. This is Abramson’s fourth book, and though the characters are linked, each book can stand alone. There are few typos in the book and it is one that will appeal to both adults and older teens. It will be particularly enjoyed by suspense and action readers, and places Abramson solidly in the ranks of top action writers.
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Those looking for something a little strange and unusual may want to pick up The White Bedouin by George Potter. This is the story of Stephen Markham, a young geology engineer, who is sent to the Midian area of Saudi Arabia to search for oil on behalf of an American oil company in 1938. He’s a returned missionary, engaged to a young woman who waited for him while he served his mission, then again while he took a job in Texas, and promises to wait while he fills a two-year contract with the oil company, a post he accepted because the depression has made jobs scarce.
Just as he leaves for the solitary assignment to Midian, he receives a “dear john” letter. He is devastated by the rejection for many months, then he meets the daughter of a Bedouin tribal leader and falls in love with her. The story is framed by the story of another young Mormon who arrives in Arabia in 1989 who chances on the story of the white Bedouin and attempts to discover if he is real and if Stephen Markham is still alive.
This book provides interesting details about the Bedouin lifestyle, Islam, and the connection this part of the world has with the major stories of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The author makes numerous connections between these two books of scripture and the Qur’an. I found some of these conjectures difficult to accept doctrinally, but I was impressed with the author’s understanding of and love for the people in that part of the world.
Those interested in studying biblical and cultural history will find The White Bedouin fascinating, but many others will find the story less than satisfying. The main story, that of Markham, is an absorbing tale, but it raises serious questions about the character’s real commitment to the gospel and the author’s doctrinal accuracy. The outer frame story holds little interest and is merely a device for providing perspective to the main story.
The book needs a copy editor to clean up the many typos and omitted words. The type is annoyingly small, which will discourage many from reading the book. Those sections of the book that deal with Markham’s exploration of the desert country are particularly well-written and convey genuine excitement for the discoveries he makes. Sections where the author makes comparisons between Islamic scripture and the Bible or Book of Mormon are often vague and make little sense to the casual reader. Where the author excels is in creating a sense of family or of one people among Muslims, Christians, and Jews, all people who claim Abraham as their father, stake a claim to the inheritances of the Twelve Tribes, and who worship the “one true God.”
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Another book that appeared toward the end of 2007 that hasn’t received the attention it deserves is Reasonable Doubt by Marcia Mickelson. It features Julia Harris, the only female attorney in a small law firm that is a little too “boys club” for her comfort.
She is assigned by her boss to defend a college basketball player accused of murdering his fianc. She welcomes the challenge even though she believes her client is guilty. She acknowledges to herself that she could be biased by her own traumatic rape by a classmate she trusted during her own college years, an experience that has left her wary of men.
Winning a case so important to her boss is an important career step for her. Unfortunately, she finds herself saddled with a co-counsel, a man new to the firm. She not only must share her case with him, but her office as well.
This book presents an exciting mystery, confronts a couple of social issues, and delivers a tender love story. The solution to the murder mystery is too obvious too early in the story, but the journey to the villain’s unmasking is still fascinating. Romances generally have happy endings, so there’s no surprise in that part of the plot. Even so watching the relationship unfold added a nice touch to the novel. The healing journey for a woman victimized by rape is the most solid portion of the book and is handled tastefully and realistically. There are also solid insights into sports obsessions, biases, and issues of trust.
The technical quality of Reasonable Doubt is generally high. The storyline holds the reader’s attention, the plot twists show excellent timing, and the copy is low in errors. The characters show sufficient development for readers to identify with them. The dialog is a little stilted in a few places, particularly at the beginning, but overall, this book was an enjoyable read
Do No Harm by Gregg Luke, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 320 pages, $15.95
Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys by Janet Kay Jensen, published by Bonneville books an imprint of Cedar Fort, softcover, 314 pages, $15.99
Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 242 pages, $15.95
The White Bedouin by George Potter, published by Council Press an imprint of Cedar Fort, softcover, 320 pages, $16.99
Reasonable Doubt by Marcia Mickelson, published by Bonneville Books an imprint of Cedar Fort, softcover, 213 pages, $14.99