Author Archives: Janet Sketchley

About Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley is an Atlantic Canadian writer whose Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense novels have each been finalists in The Word Awards. She's also the author of the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity. Janet blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

“By the Book” blog

Are you familiar with the By the Book blog? I had the chance to do an interview there last week — why not pop by and check out Beckie’s and my conversation? We talked about when I first started writing, early encouragers, why mystery/suspense, and what I hope readers will take away from my books. Here’s the link: Author, Author! — Janet Sketchley.

While you’re there, look around at the reviews, interviews, and more. If you’re on Facebook, you can not only follow By the Book there, you can participate in the By the Book FB Book club, reading a new book each month.

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The Season of Promise (Guest Post)

Baby Robins (photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel)

The Season of Promise

by Steph Beth Nickel

Birdsongs. Budding trees. Flowers opening to the sun.

Signs of promise and new life are all around us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, my favourite season has begun.)

Regardless of the season, we have the opportunity to experience God’s promises each and every day.

Will we experience the fulfilment of His promises in our time and in the way we’d choose for ourselves? Rarely, very rarely.

Still, His promises are Yay and Amen!

How can we rest in those promises—and share them with others?

  1. We must spend time in God’s Word. No matter how familiar it becomes, there is always more to learn.
  2. Prayer is crucial. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: what seemed impossible and surreal—unthinkable even—may be waiting just around the corner. Prayer is the only way to find peace and assurance in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. Plus, it’s a great way to focus on the Lord rather than on … well, anything else.
  3. Spend time with other believers, those who will encourage you and build you up. If you’re unable to do so in person, keep in mind that it’s important to carry on two-way conversations, not simply watch church services online.
  4. Head out into creation and soak in the wonder of the season, knowing that God reveals His nature in what He has made.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s 100% fine to get the help you need, including professional help. These past two years have taken their toll emotionally as well as physically as never before.
  6. We can’t wait until we’ve got it all together before we reach out to others, or we’ll never reach out. We’re always facing one challenge or another.
  7. Even before you feel adequately equipped, look for ways to bless others. Drop a card in the mail. Allow that person with only a couple of items to go ahead of you at the checkout. Smile at a stranger. (Even if you’re wearing a mask, it will show in your eyes.) A simple act of kindness can go a long way to brightening someone’s day—and our own.
  8. Prayerfully consider the writing projects you have on the go. Is it time to persevere and complete them or is God leading you in a different direction? (Remember: just because you’ve hit a wall doesn’t mean you should scrap the project. This is when we need abundant wisdom and clear guidance.)
  9. Take on a new project that will allow you to share the promises of God and evidences of the new life we have in Christ. Write a related blog post. Record an encouraging podcast. Start a Bible study—in your home or a private Zoom room.

We each express our creativity in unique ways, but we can only do so for a limited amount of time if we don’t refill the well.

What is your favourite season and why? What promises does it bring to mind? How do you share this encouragement with others?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Book Review: The Defenders of Practavia, by J. A. Menzies

The Defenders of Practavia, by J. A. Menzies (That’s Life! Communications, second edition 2021)

Two twelve-year-old friends—and a Talking Camel—may be the only hope for a kingdom in danger in this middle-grade epic fantasy novel from author J. A. Menzies.

We have a princess who’s so strong-willed even her mother calls her Princess Persnickety. And we have her unlikely friend, Stefan the stable boy. Soon, they’re joined by Creed the Talking Camel (in a kingdom where Talking Animals are the stuff of fairytales) and the adventure begins.

This book would be ideal for a child who’s an avid reader and isn’t afraid of adult-level words like “persnickety,” or for adults who enjoy reading to children. The narrative has a definite read-aloud feel, with perhaps more description than I expect most kids to want to tackle. Having said that, I heartily encourage them to tackle it—it won’t take long for the story to hook them.

There’s plenty to appeal to kids—and kid-like adults—with the children taking front stage in the action despite the adults’ attempts to keep them out of danger. There are satisfying moments of bad guys being conked by frying pans or running into just-shut doors. There are the previously mentioned Talking Animals, along with a secret history of the kingdom.

For the map-lovers among us, there’s also a map. And for the series-lovers, book 2 is in the works. This story finishes with this book, but there’s definitely scope for more. There’s still a potential threat to the realm, and Stefan, an adopted son of loving parents, finishes book 1 with a growing desire to discover his family history.

J. A. Menzies is the alter-ego of author N. J. Lindquist. Between the two names, this Canadian author has produced mysteries for adults, contemporary coming-of-age stories for young adults, nonfiction material, and now a middle-grade epic fantasy. For more about the author and her books, visit jamenzies.com and njlindquist.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Behind the Scenes of Bitter Truth


Mystery and suspense writers joke about law enforcement flagging our internet searches. For the murder in the opening pages of Bitter Truth, I spent hours looking up ways the killer could dispatch the victim from a distance or with a time delay. 

Truth told, it’s a little creepy looking at weapons sites on the internet. There are some disturbing subcultures. If you want to know what a “TEOTWAWKI kit” is, first try to guess. Then I’ll tell you at the end of this post.

On the upside, I discovered you can buy “Batman Batarang Throwing Knives.” I’m not a weapons person (although I love a good kitchen knife) but these are, well, if you’ll pardon the pun, they’re very “sharp looking”! 

Back to the research… So many options for a fictional murderer! I decided it would be dramatic to have the killer use a poisoned dart. So I studied various types of poisons. And blowguns, because he could fold it up and not look suspicious. How long would he need to practice with something like that? And how close would he have to be?

It could work. I wanted it to work. 

Then I thought about the character of the killer, his goals and his style. 

All he needed was a sniper rifle. 

There went all my fancy plans! But you never know, a poison dart may show up in a later book. Nothing’s ever wasted. 

And the answer to the mystery question is…
“TEOTWAWKI” = “The End Of The World As We Know It” 

Yikes! It’s good to be prepared for emergencies, as Green Dory Inn character Nigel Foley would attest.

Still, in these days following Easter I’d rather focus on the One who laid down His life on the Cross to save us and took it up again in triumph three days later. His purposes are best, His promises are true, and His love never fails. As the Bible says, our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15).

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What are readers saying about Bitter Truth?

“A nice assorted cast of possible suspects, and lots of twists in the plot that will keep you guessing.” ★★★★★
Jeffrey C. Reynolds, blogger and reviewer

“Recommended reading for all who love a good puzzley story.” ★★★★★
Violet Nesdoly, author, blogger, and reviewer

“I definitely recommend this book!” ★★★★★
Amy C. Blake, author and Goodreads reviewer

“Lots of twists and turns. A must read!” ★★★★★
Charlene, Goodreads reviewer

“A fun and thought-provoking read” ★★★★
Miranda S., Goodreads reviewer

“I did NOT see the ending!!” ★★★★
Trudy C., Goodreads reviewer

"Janet Sketchley’s tight writing is full of homey details—nicely appointed rooms in a seaside inn on the shores of beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada, cups of coffee, tea, and fragrant baking—disarming us for the plot’s next whiplash development." ★★★★★
Violet Nesdoly, author, blogger, and reviewer

If you like clean Christian mystery and suspense, read Bitter Truth today! This link has international options for major ebook retailers and Amazon for print: books2read.com/bitter-truth.

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (April 2022)

April 2022 New Releases from Members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary:

 

A Heart to Cherish by Judith McNees — Everyone leaves…including God. That’s how Julia Price feels after years of being passed over in foster homes. All she has ever wanted is a family, but when she finds herself pregnant and homeless, her dreams seem further away than ever. Strait-laced good guy Alex Morgan has waited his entire life for the woman God has prepared for him. When he makes it his mission to help Julia, he wonders whether she could be that woman. But why would God lead him to a pregnant non-believer? As Julia struggles with issues of self-worth and trust, can she open her heart to both God and Alex? And can Alex trust their relationship to the One who holds Julia in His hand? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Every Day Filled with Hope by Shelia W. Stovall — Nineteen years ago, a powerful and influential man assaulted former runway model Casey Bledsoe, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. Casey’s biggest regret is allowing fear to influence her to give up her baby for adoption. (General Contemporary from Elk Lake Publishing)

If You Light My Way by Jerusha Agen — Can she light up his life when hers goes dark? Oriana Sanders shouldn’t be drawn to Nicanor Pessoa. The handsome, brooding tango dancer couldn’t ever be interested in an elementary school teacher. He reminds her of her inner-city students—troubled but full of potential, if only she can point him to the joy of the Lord. Nicanor has known many beautiful women, but none with the vibrant zest for life that emanates from Oriana. She attracts him like a moth to a flame, making him want to forget the secrets and guilt that have burdened him for years. But how can he forget, when the worst secret of all is the one Oriana won’t be able to forgive? Their growing feelings for each other seem unstoppable until they face a darkness that threatens to tear them apart. Can God help them forgive the unforgivable and bring them through the shadows into the light? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Heart of a Cowboy by Elsie Davis — Rusty’s career as a bronc rider is over. Figuring out his next steps in life is more challenging than riding a bull for eight seconds. Surely there were better people more deserving of the new heart he received, people who had more to give back to society than a washed-up rodeo cowboy. Courtney is already struggling with the death of her husband, and the “temporarily relieved of duty” decree from her assistant chef position is too much to handle on her own. The decision to move home is not an easy one, but she doesn’t have much choice. At least not until the insurance company quits balking at paying out on the life insurance policy. When her truck breaks down just outside of Crossroads Creek, it’s Rusty to the rescue. Fate has brought them together, but the truth may not be something either one can handle. Will they rely on faith and trust their own hearts for the answers, or will they run from the past and destroy any chance at a future of happiness together? (Contemporary Romance from Sweet Romance Publishing)

The Bookseller’s Promise by Beth Wiseman — Yvonne Wilson makes the trek from Texas to Indiana with just one goal in mind: to convince Amishman Jake Lantz to sell her client a rare book from his collection. But Jake is as strong-willed as Yvonne. On the eve of his grandfather’s death, Jake vowed never to sell the book, and he intends to keep that promise. But he can’t say more than that, having never read it and not knowing why it was so dear to his grossdaadi. (General Contemporary from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))

 


General Historical:

 

Claiming Her Legacy by Linda Goodnight — Frontier women don’t ride off alone to track an outlaw—not even women as capable as tomboy spinster Willa Malone. But Willa desperately needs the bounty money offered for her father’s killer if she’s to keep their homestead and take care of her sisters. That means she needs an expert tracker’s help. Gideon Hartley has the skill, but the handsome trail guide also has a troubling secret…Gideon has spent years trying to numb his pain with whiskey. Little by little, their quest—and Willa’s belief in him—is restoring the sense of purpose he thought he’d lost. Journeying into the heart of danger, they’ll have to face down the past together if they hope to protect their future… (Historical/Women’s Fiction from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 


Historical Romance:

 

A Strike to the Heart by Danielle Grandinetti — Wisconsin, 1933―When a routine mission becomes an ambush that kills his team, Craft Agency sniper Miles Wright determines to find the persons responsible and protect the woman he rescued. But the fierce independence that led Lily Moore to leave her family’s dairy business for the solitary life of a dog trainer and the isolation of her farm don’t make that easy. Neither does his unwanted attraction to her. Meanwhile, escalating incidents confirm that she’s far from safe. Lily fears letting the surprisingly gentle retired marine into her life almost as much as she fears whoever is threatening her. As Wisconsin farmers edge toward another milk strike, one that will surely turn violent, it becomes clear that the plot against Lily may be part of a much larger conspiracy. When the search for her abductor leads close to home, she must decide whether to trust her family or the man who saved her life. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

The Marquis’s Pursuit by Lorri Dudley — She’s desperate to keep her secret hidden, but he’s a determined Marquis. As the son of a duke, Maxwell Oliver Weld, Marquis of Daventry, is allowed entry into the finest of London’s ballrooms, access to political figures, and advice from the best physicians. Yet, his wealth and contacts won’t heal his friend, Charlie, who’s dying from consumption. Hopeful for a miracle, Max persuades Charlie to sail across the Atlantic to stay in the Artesian Hotel on the island of Nevis and bathe in its famous healing springs. Max’s optimism is washed in doubt as the truth unravels about the hotel, its hot springs, and the beautiful caretaker. The blaze of Evelyn Mairi Sheraton’s fiery side has long since been snuffed out. Hunted by a vengeful man from her past, only fortitude and the island’s sanctuary have kept Evelyn alive. She will do whatever it takes to keep her precious secret safe, even work for the demeaning Artesian Hotel owner, Edward Rousseau. However, when a jaunty marquis and his ailing friend arrive, sparks ignite, but Evelyn fears the revealing of her secrets will burn her to ash. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

 


Mystery:

 

Persian Blue Puzzle by Susan Page Davis — Someone’s broken into Miss Louanne’s house. Campbell McBride and her father Bill have moved their home and detective business into an old Victorian house. Their new neighbors bring in unexpected cases for True Blue Investigations to unravel. While helping Miss Louanne look for her missing cat, Campbell learns of other suspicious activities in Murray. Another neighbor tells the detectives about a stranger in town who’s peddling an investment plan. They aren’t sure any crimes have been committed, but they’re intrigued enough for Campbell to visit a psychic along with police detective Keith Fuller’s mom and to start checking up on the financier. Things heat up when a customer threatens the psychic and then she vanishes. (Mystery from Scrivenings Press)

The Souls of Lost Lake by Jaime Jo Wright — To save the innocent, they must face an insidious evil. Wren Blythe has long enjoyed living in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, helping her father with ministry at a youth camp. But when a little girl in the area goes missing, an all-out search ensues, reviving the decades-old campfire story of Ava Coons, the murderess who is believed to still roam the forest. Joining the search, Wren stumbles upon the Coonses’ cabin ruins and a sinister mystery she is determined to unearth. In 1930, Ava Coons has spent the last several years carrying the mantle of mystery since the day she emerged from the woods as a thirteen-year-old girl, spattered with blood, dragging a logger’s ax. She has accepted she will never remember what happened to her family, whose bodies were never found, and that the people of Tempter’s Creek will always blame her for their violent deaths. And after a member of the town is murdered, and another goes missing, rumors spread that Ava’s secret is perhaps more malicious than previously imagined. (Mystery from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)

 


Speculative Fiction/Fantasy:

 

The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes by Dawn Ford — Eighteen-year-old servant girl Tambrynn is haunted by more than her unusual silver hair and the star-shaped pupils in her eyes. Her uncontrollable ability to call objects leads the wolves who savagely murdered her mother right to her door. When she’s fired and outcast during a snowstorm, her carriage wrecks and she’s forced to find refuge in an abandoned cottage. There, her life is upended when the magpie who’s stalked her for ten years transforms into a man, Lucas. He’s her Watcher and they’re from a different kingdom. His job is to keep her safe from her father, an evil mage, who wants to steal her abilities, turn her into one of his undead beasts, and become immortal himself. Can they make it to the magical passageway and get to their home kingdom in time for Tambrynn to thwart her father’s malicious plans? Or will Tambrynn’s unique magic doom them all? (Speculative Fiction/Fantasy from Scrivenings Press)

 


Thriller/Suspense/Romance:

 

Inheritance of Secrets by Robin Patchen — “I didn’t do right by your mother. Or by you. Find her and do what I never had the courage to do.” Spoken between wheezing breaths, the deathbed words of Aspen Kincaid’s father shook her to the core. He’d led her to believe that the mystery of her mother’s disappearance was unsolvable. Apparently, her father had known more than he’d ever let on. He’s been lying to her all her life. When Aspen inherits a house in New Hampshire—a house she hadn’t known Dad owned—she travels thousands of miles, desperate to do as her father asked—find her mother. But some of the residents of Coventry seem less than thrilled to learn Jane Kincaid’s daughter is back and digging into things that should remain buried forever. Garrett’s renovations of the secluded old house on the mountain should be the next step in his contracting career, but Aspen’s arrival in town stirs up old animosities he hadn’t known existed. All he wants is to complete the job, hoping it’ll open up new opportunities. But some people expect Garrett’s help to keep an eye on Aspen’s activities. How can he honor his beautiful, vulnerable client and remain loyal to the people who need his help? (Thriller/Suspense/Romance, independently published)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

By the Sweet Gum by Ane Mulligan, She’s bound by duty. He’s tethered to a dream. (Historical Romance)
 
The Do-Over by Bethany Turner, Sometimes dreams come true. Other times, the best outcome begins with an epic fail. (Contemporary Romance)
 
Pilgrim by Brian Shotton, A door dividing life from death draws Scott into a deadly trap. Can he save his friends before fate forces him through? (Thriller/Suspense Supernatural)
 
Love’s Escape by Carrie Fancett Pagels, The son of a funeral home owner and his friend, a sea captain, transport the women they love, two enslaved women from Virginia plantations, North. (Historical Romance)
 
Home Run Hunter by Cindy M. Amos, Full of positive enthusiasm, Lena Hart works for the promo team at the ballpark and encourages trouble-shooting intern Gage Landers to find contentment in the day, not chase some far-off dream. (Contemporary Romance)
 
Wounded Soul by Sheridan Lee, Life often derails well-laid plans. Can she achieve her dreams after everything crumbles? (General Contemporary)
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It’s Release Day!

Happy “book birthday” to the newest Green Dory Inn Mystery, Bitter Truth! The paperback version sneaked onto the scene early, and now the ebooks are live too.

What readers are saying about Bitter Truth.
Click the image to reach the buy link or click here to for more about Bitter Truth.
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Post-Mandate Living (Guest Post)

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Post-Mandate Living

by Steph Beth Nickel

Virtually all the COVID restrictions have been lifted in Ontario (Canada).

You would think that would cause relief and rejoicing, a return to “normal.” While that may be the case for some, I have spoken with several people who will continue to wear a mask. And while I’m not overly concerned about my own health, when I’m not feeling 100 percent, I may wear a mask for the sake of others.

Regardless of how we feel about the mandates and statistical reporting, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and how others have dealt with the situation over the past two years, we’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot of lessons.

Here are just five that come to mind:

  1. Kindness and compassion should always be “the norm.” There have been too many attacks launched on social media from every perspective. (In this, I include all the belittling comments and attacks—even the seemingly benign attacks—on the intelligence of those who feel differently than we do.)
  2. As we enter a time when each of us is free to choose how we deal with mask-wearing and social distancing, respect is vital. Those who continue to wear masks should be treated as those who previously could not wear masks wanted to be treated—with respect.
  3. And speaking of respect… Even easygoing people have developed strong opinions about things they’d never given a second thought pre-pandemic. We may/likely have friends and family members who are adamantly opposed to our perspective on a wide variety of topics. It’s important to learn how to live at peace with them—especially when they are members of our family or church, those people we interact with regularly.
  4. The Lord instructs us to put other’s needs above our own. In Philippians 2:3, He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV) Although I’m sure not based on this biblical directive, the employees at the garage where we get our car serviced have what I think is an excellent approach. Because of government mandates, they are no longer required to wear masks. However, if a customer comes in with a mask, they are to put one on out of respect for them. That earns them five out of five stars in my book.
  5. The anxiety of the last two years hasn’t necessarily evaporated. We may have a whole new list of concerns. Should I shed my mask or not? Should I get a/another booster shot? Should I be extra cautious around people with cold and flu symptoms, knowing my immune system hasn’t had the workout it’s had pre-COVID? And on and on and on.

As we navigate these and other issues, God’s Word gives us instructions that apply. He knew what each and every one of us would face down through the millennia. Amazing!

In the ESV*, Philippians 4:4-9 says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

I return to these verses again and again. What are your go-to verses in times of anxiety and uncertainty?


*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Once We Were Strangers, by Shawn Smucker

Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor, by Shawn Smucker (Revell, 2018)

Do I have it in me? Not only to be a good friend, but to allow Mohammed to be a friend to me? What would my life look like if I made friendship a priority? [page 54]

This is a daunting question for a man with a wife and six kids, a writer who also drives long hours for a couple of rideshare companies.

When American writer Shawn Smucker decides to interview a Syrian refugee for a book, he doesn’t expect to make a friend—or to challenge the way he looks at life. What emerges, instead of an account of Mohammed’s family’s harrowing journey to the US, is the story of two different men and their families—and the similarities they discover between them.

We do learn the basics of the escape from Syria and the difficult years in Jordan. The story’s focus, though, is on their experiences as newcomers trying to build a life in a new culture with minimal resources—as relayed through Shawn’s reactions. As he learns, we can learn too: maybe North American independence and self-reliance have robbed us of the benefits of interdependence and interconnectedness.

Mohammed’s backstory is told in past tense, while Shawn’s is present-tense. I’m not sure why, unless it’s to give a sense of immediacy so we readers will share his reactions. There are some very pleasing word choices.

Favourite line:

They are small offices, like closets that somehow managed to swallow a desk and a filing cabinet and maybe a folding chair or two. [page 32]

I would have appreciated a bit more orientation early-on in the book. I think the idea to write about a Syrian Muslim’s immigration experience came to Shawn, an American Christian, as a way to help raise awareness. That wasn’t clear to me in the beginning, and I spent time wondering if it was an assignment from the organization that connected him with Mohammed. That group is Church World Service, which I spent part of the book trying to figure out when I should have just looked it up online. They’re a faith-based as the name suggests, not simply named after someone called Church.

Even with being a little confused in the beginning, I found this heartwarming and thought provoking book an easy and engaging read. Highly recommended in these times when fear and hostility are raising barriers.

As the author concludes,

Not long ago, Mohammed and I were strangers. Now we are friends. This, it seems to me, is no small deal in a world and a system that would prefer we fear one another. This, it seems to me, is the first step in bringing a lasting peace. [page 187]

Shawn Smucker is an author, co-writer, and award-winning novelist based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Once We Were Strangers is nonfiction. For more about the author and his work, visit shawnsmucker.com.

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Review: False Pretense, by Heather Day Gilbert

False Pretense, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2022)

Missing persons, unexpected power flickers, and sightings of a creature from West Virginia folklore… except the huge grey Mothman is being seen by trustworthy witnesses. And the winged creature isn’t just a guy in a costume, because it flies. More troubling still, its appearance seems to coincide with the disappearance of two local women—women who look a lot like Tess Spencer.

Mysteries keep finding Tess. She’s solved three as an amateur sleuth, earning enough respect from the police in her small town that Detective Zeke Tucker has hired her as admin assistant. Sure, it’s a desk job, but Zeke values her insights on active cases.

As Tess begins to suspect this case may be personal, she’s also concerned about her mother-in-law’s health and the dirty politics being played by her husband’s rival. As readers of the series know, Tess isn’t one to allow anyone to mess with her family.

I’ve liked Tess from book one. She’s a smart, brave, loyal, self-reliant woman of faith. Since she lives in a state where it’s allowed to conceal-carry a weapon, she takes a handgun and sometimes a knife into danger.

Favourite line:

I’ve always felt the woods are my native environment, a place I can be protected from the pressures of life. Now something—maybe some age-old evil, if I let my imagination run wild—has invaded our area. [Kindle location 539]

The mystery in False Pretense offers enough clues for readers to feel like we’re part of the investigation. I came up with a few ideas, but they were definitely off-base. Fans of the series will be glad to spend time with Tess and her family again, and will be hoping to finally learn the truth about the mysterious Axel Becker. And while this finishes the series, it left me wanting to go back and read again from the beginning.

Readers of the author’s Barks ‘n Beans mystery series will recognize a few mentions of those characters. I enjoy seeing nods like this to other fictional friends. 

False Pretense is a satisfying finale to a mystery series filled with heart and truly likeable characters. If you’re new to the Murder in the Mountains series, you could start here without feeling lost. But I’d encourage you to start with book 1, Miranda Warning, and enjoy the development of characters and relationships through the full series.

Author Heather Day Gilbert writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. To quote her bio on the Goodreads site, “She brings authentic family relationships to the page, and she particularly delights in heroines who take a stand to protect those they love.” For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher, because I couldn’t wait to read the copy I’ve preordered. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.]

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