Deadly Devotion, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2013)
Research scientist Kate Adams’ mentor died from toxic herbal tea, and the police rule it self-inflicted if possibly accidental. Since they won’t investigate it as murder, Kate vows to find the killer herself.
Detective Tom Parker, the newest member of Port Aster’s small force, warns her that nobody is who they seem to be. Although the case is closed, Tom starts some quiet checking, more to keep Kate from endangering herself than out of agreement with her theories. Attraction grows between them, but this case is only one of the issues likely to keep them apart.
Deadly Devotion is a murder mystery plot delivered as romantic suspense. There are at least three very plausible suspects, and they kept me guessing until very near the end. Even then, I guessed right but for the wrong reason.
Sandra Orchard creates complex characters whose personalities shape how they react to the story unfolding around them. In Deadly Devotion, Kate sees the best in people—well, everyone other than the police—and she has no idea how to recognize a villain. Tom, on the other hand, deals with flashbacks and what looks like post-traumatic stress syndrome from his FBI work. It’s hard for him not to see threats and deception all around.
We also meet Tom’s father, Keith, an ex-cop who’s withdrawn into grief after losing his wife. And with Kate’s background in herbal research, we glimpse the world of herbal tea and natural remedies… and poison.
I appreciate how Kate and Tom integrate their Christianity into the grief and suspense they encounter in the novel. Sometimes it comes up in their conversation, but usually it’s just the force shaping how they view their world and how they act within that world.
Deadly Devotion is one of those novels where each chapter hooks you into the next one without stopping. Suspense balances with quieter scenes for an intriguing read without the high intensity of a thriller. It’s well-crafted, with some fresh descriptions. I’ll share my two favourites:
Setting the scene and introducing Kate and Tom (Parker) in the police station: “Parker glanced tiredly into each of the three coffee cups sitting on his desk, stacked them, and chucked them into a wastebasket.” (p.13) It’s just a day-in-the-life moment, but I can feel the atmosphere and I sense a bit about Tom.
Kate, feeling a bit uneasy: “A creepy bugs-under-the-collar sensation pitter-pattered across her neck as she stepped past him.” (p. 33) We’ve all felt it, but I’ve never thought of it that way before.
Deadly Devotion marks Canadian author Sandra Orchard’s first step into longer-length novels (she also writes the shorter Love Inspired Suspense novels). She handles the longer format well, and I prefer them. I’m looking forward to book two in the Port Aster Secrets series. The murder mystery was solved, but there are questions from Kate’s past, among other things.
[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]
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