Book Review: The Life Group by Maura Jortner

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Title: The Life Group
Author: Maura Jortner
Publisher: Lakewater Press

Publication Date: January 9, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult

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the-life-groupThe Life Group
Maura Jortner
Lakewater Press, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9944511-9-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

ONE MISSING GIRL. ONE RADICAL CHURCH. ONE DAY.

Every day since her sister vanished, Rachel has visited the radical church where Leah was last seen. There are still no suspects or leads, but Rachel’s positive clues lie in that church somewhere.

Thirteen days on from Leah’s disappearance, the pastor introduces Rachel to Tim, a devout worshiper of his Lord. To avoid dealing with his own demons, he agrees to spend the day helping Rachel search for her sister.

It’s Saturday, March 14. Maybe today will be the day. Maybe today Rachel will be reunited with Leah. Or maybe today will change Rachel’s life forever.

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with The Life Group and, based on other reviews out there, I suspect I’ll be kicked out of the reviewers club since I can’t rave about it as much as they do.

I have to be really careful about sharing what I didn’t care for because some of it would give away the plot but I can at least say that the one-day aspect didn’t work for me in two ways. First, I didn’t find a lot of credibility in a teenaged girl finding all the answers in one day when the police hadn’t been able to in two weeks. Also, Rachel’s attachment to Tim happened way too fast and went too deep in such a short time span.

I also didn’t care much for some of the “good guy” characters, particularly Rachel’s parents. I realize they’re under terrible strain but, honestly, they’re about as useless as can be and Rachel showed much more maturity and, well, gumption.

On the positive side, Ms. Jortner has created an intense story and the presence of a cultish church is certainly interesting, especially considering what we know about such groups as Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate and Scientology, among others. Taking it a step further, what four individuals are planning is frightening because it has happened and will happen again. The rising tension as Rachel gets closer to the truth and then must deal with it kept me on tenterhooks until the end but, I was a bit disappointed in Rachel’s reaction when all is done (sorry, I can’t say more for fear of a giant spoiler).

So, all in all, I recommend this to readers looking for a good thriller with some reservations.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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About the Author

maura-jortnerMaura Jortner grew up in New Hampshire and now lives in Waco, Texas with her patient husband, two amazing daughters, and one unruly cat. She teaches literature and writing classes at Baylor University. A lifetime ago, she used to direct plays and put on puppet shows for kids, which led to a Ph.D. in Theatre History. Currently, when Maura’s not writing, she’s spending her time like every native-born Texan: worrying about how many chiggers might be hidden in the grass outside her house or if she put enough sunscreen on her kids.

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