I just finished reading Miranda Warning (A Murder in the Mountains – Book One) by Heather Day Gilbert. I thought it would be a straightforward mystery, but it turned out to be a multi-faceted introduction to what I expect will be a long series.
NOTE – This kindle book is FREE on Amazon right now, and when you buy it (for FREE), you can get the audible version for $1.99. I highly recommend it, and I think you will want to follow up with the next in the series, “Trial by Twelve.”
The author has created a refreshingly original world. I wouldn’t classify the book as “Christian Fiction.” Instead, Ms. Gilbert writes from a Christian worldview, and her setting includes a realistic mix of Christians and nonbelievers in community. None of them are perfect, and they live naturally according to their convictions. The heroine is a unique character. She bears some scars from a dysfunctional childhood, but she went to college, married into a healthy family and doesn’t wallow in angst. As a mother-in-law, I was pleased to see the loving relationship between Tess and Nikki Jo. The politically conservative characters are portrayed as intelligent and sensible instead of rednecks or greedy industrialists. They have guns but aren’t violent. A young boy is allowed to be an ordinary young boy who enjoys his family. An older woman is sometimes lucid and sometimes vague. Tess’s husband, Thomas, is allowed to be grouchy and jealous sometimes without being a bully. He is macho and vulnerable. She is vulnerable, too, but also willful and sometimes intrepid. And she doesn’t hide (too many) things from her husband; she can be foolhardy and she has common sense. On these and several other points, Ms. Gilbert succeeds in breaking free of stereotypes. Refreshing!
There were some inconsistencies that struck me as jarring: Miranda initiated the whole mystery and then became disinterested. The doctor was too accommodating, too fast. Why didn’t Tess have a concealed carry permit? Axel provided insight to Thomas’s character and feelings for Tess, but he seemed extraneous otherwise. He felt like a subplot that never developed, and then he left the country to tie up the loose end. Rosemary’s actions were odd. The friendship with Charlotte happened too quickly and conveniently. The ending felt rushed. And yet, it was still an engrossing story. I wonder if the book was originally much longer and then cut back to meet modern publishing standards.
The author’s creativity and skill were displayed in the two parallel story lines that linked all of the characters. Rose’s story unfolded slowly, changing our perceptions of each character with every installment. THAT was superbly written.
Trial by Twelve, the second book in this series, features the same characters two years later and is more of a murder mystery than this one. I look forward to reading it soon!
I had purchased Miranda Warning in kindle form and was already reading it when the author approached me with an offer of a free audiobook in exchange for an honest review. It was nice to have both formats. The reader did a very good job, but of the two formats, I preferred the text book. The first-person, present tense style sounds a little dreamy and “stream of consciousness” when it’s read aloud.
There are quite a few female characters in the book, and the reader was consistent and distinct in each voice. She had to create separate young and old voices for three of the characters, since there are separate timeline passages, and she did great with that. She also did the child’s voice quite well. The Appalachian dialect was just right – not overdone.
This kindle book is FREE right now on Amazon, and the Miranda Warning audiobook is only $1.99. That’s $2 for 8 1/2 hours of entertainment!!