Closing In by Kerry Blair
Reviewed by Jennie Hansen
“Pay careful heed to the beginning of this story,” Libby James read aloud, “for when we get to the end of it we shall know more than we do now about love and greed and the ice that can freeze in our hearts.” Beginning each chapter with a quote from one of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tales, Kerry Blair tells a tale of love and greed that is far from a children’s fairy tale. With her flair for humor she not only keeps the suspense high, but keeps the reader laughing as well.
The stage is set for Closing In in a small Arizona town called Amen where Elizabeth Jamison, “one of the richest, most powerful women in corporate America” has retreated anonymously after the yacht accident that killed her parents. Here in this town, her ancestors settled, Elizabeth Jamison is plain Libby James, school librarian. She continues to run the business she inherited when her parents died via Internet connections and by frequent flights back to Los Angeles. She also stays in close touch with her niece whom she adores; her sister, Geneva and Geneva’s husband, Frank; and Uncle Leo. Both her brother-in-law, Frank Gordon, and Uncle Leo help her to run the corporation.
Captain David Rogers, a Navy pilot and astronaut, is in Amen on a secret mission for the government. Someone is selling missile designs to terrorists and the government suspects Elizabeth Jamison, CEO of Jamison enterprises, a major supplier to the US government defense system. To enable him to watch “Libby”, a job is arranged for him at the same school where Ms. Jamison serves as librarian. David has no clue how to teach sixth-graders, and every attempt he makes to get close to Libby goes wrong. Though he has a reputation for being a ladies’ man and possesses a surplus of good-looks and charm, he can’t persuade Libby to go out with him. Everyone in town adores her and he can’t get anywhere with his investigation because no one has anything negative to say about her. Complicating his job, David is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so is Libby. As luck would have it, the principal of the small school where they are both employed is also their bishop who knows both their secrets and he is constantly throwing them together. The principal/bishop assigns Libby to help David gain control of his class. He also places both Libby and David in youth leadership positions in the small ward which requires them to cooperate with each other on reactivation and service projects. Before long David is working harder to clear and protect Libby than to prove her guilt.
Though Closing In is a serious tale of espionage with a strong suspense element, it’s a great deal more. Kerry Blair has a tremendous talent for humor. In the midst of spies and espionage and a serious story concerning greed and betrayal, Blair makes her readers laugh by presenting Estelle, Libby’s neighbor, who keeps watches by both land and air with a powerful telescope that doesn’t miss much, for the returning Ten Tribes. Estelle is convinced the missing tribes are on another planet and they will return in space ships. She is so prepared for their return, that she has twenty packets of cherry Kool Aid and ten pounds of sugar along with a freezer full of cookies to serve the “Brethren” when they arrive. There’s also LaRae Flake who tries to win David’s affection by serving him gopher stew. Her mother and sisters, all with La-something names, run a restaurant. It is, in fact, the only restaurant in town and it serves a lot of original dishes which makes the prospect of taking a date to dinner ludicrous.
Humor is sadly lacking as a genre in LDS fiction; there just isn’t much of it. Both Robert Farrell Smith and Joni Hilton write delightfully silly humor; Robert Kirby and Pat Bagley contribute cartoons, and James Arrington has a unique style all his own, but that is about as far as the number of LDS humor writers go. There are a few others, but they haven’t risen to the kind of prominence that easily brings their names to mind when an LDS reader thinks humor. Since it has been my experience that members of the Church enjoy a wide range of humor styles, I find it strange that we are not producing more humor writers. Possibly because writers and publishers take the gospel very seriously, they feel a reluctance to poke fun at the everyday foibles of members or of issues closely associated with the Church. Several suspense fiction writers add a bit of humor to break the tension at critical points, but only Kerry Blair and Betsy Green seem able to sustain humor throughout their books while effectively telling a love story or suspense tale without making the major plot appear silly. It’s an effective style that clearly carves a niche in the market for these two talented writers.
Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales have entertained children for many years, but the messages behind his tales reach far beyond childhood. Sister Blair uses key passages from well-known classics such as The Snow Queen to relate effectively to the problems her characters face. In the process, she gives her readers an opportunity to examine these quotations in a way that invites some self-evaluation.
Preceding each chapter with a quotation or bit of poetry was a popular style fifty and more years ago, but is not used so often anymore. Yet when it is done well, it still is an effective way to build the reader’s anticipation of what is to come. They cut out large pieces of air with their big tailor’s scissors. They sewed away with needles that had no thread in them. At last they said, “Look! The Clothes are ready!” Once a person has read The Emperor’s New Clothes, the story is never forgotten. Sister Blair heads a chapter with this quotation and we immediately start watching the following pages for someone who sees only what he is expected to see; not what really is. Each of her well-chosen quotes hints at what is to come, becomes part of the puzzle, and adds to the intrigue and the enjoyment of Closing In.
Closing In is Kerry Blair’s fourth novel and it is totally different from her “Heart” series. Readers who enjoyed that series will love this book, too, as will the readers who choose the immensely popular romantic suspense novels that have appeared during the past few years.
2002Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.