She Writes Press, April 2020
From the publisher—
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.
Creepy cover, right? There’s something about a beat up, abandoned doll baby that immediately captures the eye and the imagination and we know we’re in for an emotionally difficult read. Sure enough…
Linda Turner has seen a lot in her years on the Lincoln, Nebraska, police force but the discovery of the three bodies in the backyard of the pastorage and the seeming abduction of the pastor’s wife is a kicker and it’s hard to know where to begin her investigation. The missing woman is the primary concern, of course, since she might still be alive but the killings of the children, in particular, make this a high profile case. It’s always possible, of course, that Nicole Hansen is involved in the murder of her family but all anyone knows at first is that they had been expected on a missionary trip but had never arrived.
Meanwhile, another pastor, one who’s much more visible than Pastor Hansen, is ending his televangelist program in St. Louis because the revenue just isn’t supporting the expenses. Ray Williams’ heart was in the right place but he never managed to make a real success of this venture. When he’s approached by Susannah Baker, a fairly recent member of the church, with a potential plan to grow the ministry, Ray is initially disturbed by the appearance of fraud but Susannah does seem to believe in what she’s saying. Not far away, a mother and daughter have a disagreement about the mother’s attachment to Reverend Ray.
Early on, the reader learns who Susannah really is and the story arc lies in how Captain Turner will put the apparently unconnected pieces together. Linda is a woman of character, intelligent and driven by the search for justice, but can she get to the truth in time to prevent more tragedy? On the opposite end of the spectrum is Susannah, a manipulative, vicious woman compelled by greed and lacking any conscience. Blind faith plays a big part in her machinations and shines a light on how so many people are drawn into religious operations that may or may not be legitimate. Whether Linda can stop this unusual serial killer also involves a bit of blind faith of another sort.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.