Tess O’Rourke has a single goal: to rise through the Long Beach police ranks to captain in honour of her father, a cop killed in the line of duty. But when she shoots an unarmed young offender to protect another officer, a police-hating blogger turns public sentiment against her to the point that her presence on the force endangers her fellow officers.
Tess takes the one job she can find, chief of a small station in Oregon. As she struggles to gain the locals’ trust and build connections with her subordinates, she’s faced with the disappearance of one of the few friends she’s made in this new town.
Crisis Shot has satisfying characters and conflicts, a complicated plot, and twists I didn’t see coming. I thought we could have done with less back story (the first eight chapters, “Part 1,” which show what happened in Long Beach and her struggle to stay, could have been referred to off-page as back story and provided separately to fans wanting more).
What I liked most was the spiritual tension between Tess and the local pastor. Oliver and his wife, Anna, have faced personal and congregational pain over the years. He trusts God, even when he doesn’t understand. Tess gave up on God years ago because she can’t understand why He would allow her father to be killed. Yet when Oliver faces heartbreak, Tess has words of hope from her own life. As this series progresses, it’ll be interesting to see how these two grow in friendship.
“The tension there was thicker than a hard copy of the California penal code.” [Kindle edition, page 40]
In a time when the news is filled with situations where certain police officers have conducted themselves with prejudice, brutality, and corruption, this book is a vital reminder that most law enforcement officers are dedicated men and women of integrity who regularly put their lives in harm’s way to protect the vulnerable.
Crisis Shot is book 1 in The Line of Duty series, followed by book 2, Lethal Target. Author Janice Cantore has a background in law enforcement, giving a depth of authenticity to her fictional officers’ interactions and issues. For more about the author and her work, visit janicecantore.com.
Poison Bay, by Belinda Pollard (Small Blue Dog Publishing, 2014)
Ten years after their high school graduation—and the public suicide of one of their number—a group of friends reunite for a gruelling hike through the wilds of New Zealand. But at least one of them has an ulterior motive.
It may be that none of them will survive.
Magnificent setting, complex characters, plot twists: this is a book that’s hard to put down. The landscape is fantastic—and deadly.
While Callie and Jack try to figure out what’s really happening and to get their friends to safety, readers also see one of the parents and the local police chief as they try to mount a search and rescue campaign.
“Lightning sheeted overhead every few seconds, its flash freeze-framing the water in yet another brutal contortion.” [Kindle edition, page 36]
“The white-capped peak loomed far overhead on the right, a stream of snow flicking off its top like a flyaway fringe.” [Kindle edition, page 252]
This is Christian fiction with a very subtle faith thread. Jack is the only character with a personal faith, and he’s very honest about the struggle he has with wrong attitudes toward some of the others. [I want to leave that vague to avoid spoilers.]
Poison Bay is book 1 in the Wild Crimes series, to be followed by Venom Reef. For more about author-editor-speaker Belinda Pollard, visit belindapollard.com.
High tension from page one until the end. Even when Julia slows down to breathe and recover, author K.L. Ditmars has created frightening enough enemies that you feel them looming just off the page ready to overpower her.
When Julia’s husband is murdered in front of her, she only knows one safe place to run—to a homeless man living in the forest behind their home. The man, Charlie, is ex-military, carrying his own trauma from serving during the Rwandan genocide. And he’s not exactly homeless, or resourceless.
The human trafficking ring responsible for Julia’s husband’s death considers her a loose end—to be eliminated. She doesn’t dare approach the police, because the killers framed her for the murder. Threaded among Julia’s defensive plans and strategic actions and eventual investigation, we see glimpses of her enemies’ ruthlessness.
There’s a lot to like about this book: vibrant settings, courage, human kindness. And an Irish Wolfhound named Aengus. There’s also truth: about the ongoing scourge of human trafficking in Canada and the United States.
There’s also a strong thread of faith. Charlie combats his residual PTSD through prayer, finding comfort that God is with him in the darkness. His words point Julia toward trusting God and finding the help and strength she needs. Nothing is preachy, just a natural outflow of their time together.
Best thing I’m taking from this novel: “All is in Your hands.” This is Charlie’s prayer, which Julia takes for her own. It’s a simple enough prayer that any of us can add it into our lives.
All That it Takes is a gripping read. It’s one of those novels where the characters and their struggle stayed with me when I wasn’t reading. Favourite line:
Charlie… let the silence after her revelation sit between them like a cup of coffee needing to cool. [Chapter 10, ebook page 88]
All That it Takes is book 1 in the Where Can I Go? series. The sequel, coming later in 2021, will carry on Julia’s quest for justice. For more about Canadian author K.L. Ditmars, visit klditmarswriter.com. You can also read an interview she did with me here: interview-k-l-ditmars-canadian-author.
K. L. (Kelly) Ditmars is a Canadian writer of inspirational fiction, whose debut novel, All That it Takes, released January 2021. The opening chapters of All That it Takes won a Word Award in 2020 in the unpublished fiction category—a promising endorsement!
Welcome, Kelly, and congratulations on your new release! What is your book about?
My book is a fictional story about Julia Bowen whose husband is murdered. As she navigates her grief she discovers that he died at the hands of a human trafficking ring which she attempts to expose. It is also about her spiritual journey and how the people that help her in her efforts against the trafficking ring also help her come into relationship with God.
What sort of research did you need to do for a subject like this?
To realistically address the issue of human trafficking, I read a lot of books about the human trafficking issue in Canada.
I also have friends who have worked in anti-human trafficking efforts for decades, so I was able to draw on their experience through interviews.
One of the main characters lives on a boat. I live on an island where a segment of the population lives aboard their boats, it wasn’t too difficult to find friends of friends to interview.
Two characters in the story were veterans of the Canadian military service and shared an experience as peacekeepers during the Rwanda genocide. To research this, I read a lot. Two specific books written by General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the peacekeeping mission during the genocide, regarding his experience in Rwanda and dealing with post-traumatic stress: Shake Hands with the Devil and Waiting for First Light.
This list is just a tip of the iceberg of research resources I used while writing my book. But it is a good start for anyone looking to read more: klditmarswriter.com/resources.
Do you remember the first germ of idea for All That it Takes?
Most definitely. The beginning of this story came from a dream. In this dream I was fleeing from a friend’s house into the forest behind their home. Of course, when I woke up, I had no idea why I was fleeing. I immediately wrote it down. A month later I had written 52,000 words and had a rough first draft of All That it Takes.
Wow, that’s a fast start! Do you have a favorite character in the story?
Yes, Charlie is my favorite character, I had fun writing him and using him as a vehicle to share God’s love. A close second is Angus, the Irish wolfhound.
Glad I’m not the only writer who loves the animal characters as well as the humans. I see this is book one in the Where Can I Go? series. Will the next book continue Julia’s story or what connects the books in the series?
Yes, the next book will continue Julia’s story as she helps bring the human trafficking ring to justice. It will also be a thriller based around the real battle faced by law enforcement and the legal establishment to charge and convict human traffickers. The whole series not only sees Julia’s efforts against human trafficking, but also her spiritual journey, as she discovers a God who is present through it all. Her spiritual journey begins with an introduction to faith in God and coming to the understanding that God is with us and we are never apart from him. Even though we may not realize his presence, it is always there.
His presence makes all the difference. Can you share any special God moments you experienced working on this project?
I wrote a lot of Charlie’s faith journey from my own experience and when I did it caused me to look back at my own life and see God’s hand. I think writing this story was an affirmation of God’s faithfulness in my own life.
How long have you been writing? And what got you started?
I have memories of writing stories when I was a little girl, of course I don’t have any of those early scribblings, I’ve moved too many times in my life for them to have survived successive purges. A lot of my early writing experiences involved writing stage plays in church. It was my church youth group and creative ministry departments at the churches I’ve attended throughout my life that encouraged and fostered this aspect of creativity in my life.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
I still feel I am a beginning writer as this is my debut novel. I guess I would say, keep writing, keep improving your craft. Take classes, learn from people and authors you admire and who are further ahead in the publishing journey. Go to conferences and mingle with fellow writers and authors.
Figure out what you have to do to make it a reality. I remember when I went to my very first writers conference in 2015, I had a reality check regarding all the things on top of writing that an author has to do. It’s a little daunting and overwhelming at times but basically, it’s an ever-evolving machine to not just write books and stories but also to make sure that they come to be noticed out there in the world and to find their place on the shelf next to other writers.
Wise words. Thank you. Is there a particular song or scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?
Worship music for me is a huge influencer. Worshipping God and loving him through music and declaring his worthiness of his place in my life has always been a vehicle to really hear him speak to me. It puts me in a place where I can hear his voice and seek direction and just nurture that love relationship with him. So, no one song in particular, just the act of worship has made a difference.
There is one verse from Deuteronomy that seems to come to mind more often than any other. Chapter 5 verse 29; “Oh that there were such a heart in them that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” I come back to this verse quite often when I struggle with bad choices that I’ve made and circumstances I find myself in. It grounds me in knowing God has my best in mind, and always will. His commandments are there to give me direction and purpose, that I might live the best life possible and be an example and hopefully influence those around me.
I can hear God’s yearning over us in that verse. Now, for something a little lighter, to finish: Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea?
Definitely chocolate and definitely tea.
I have always loved chocolate.
As far as coffee goes, I have never developed a taste for it. I have had sips of coffee throughout my life but could never get past the bitterness.
It was only in my early 50s when I actually had my first cup of coffee. I was in Bulgaria and visiting a monastery with a group and we were offered coffee. I have been a missionary and we were taught that if someone offers you something you graciously accept it. So, that afternoon in Bulgaria, sitting in the courtyard of a beautiful monastery, I drank my first cup of coffee. I even took a picture to prove it. It was thick Turkish coffee, but served in a small demitasse cup and laden with sugar, which helped me finish it. I can still taste that bitter flavor to this day, and I hope I never have to drink another cup of coffee again.
Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.
The mountains, ocean and the mild climate on the west coast. I grew up in northwestern Ontario, and lived a number of years in Alberta, so I have experienced the frozen Canadian winter for much of my life. The rainforest climate here, despite the cloudy wet days in winter, make a lush green background to living that I am enjoying at this point in my life. My mother use to always say, ‘you don’t have to shovel rain.’
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done?
I think the most unusual thing I’ve ever done involves travel. I’ve been a missionary and lived and traveled to a number of countries, but in 2012 during my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria, I went to Bulgaria. I participated in a three-week field school in which we documented, through photography and drawing, frescoes in medieval churches in the Balkan mountains. It was fascinating and educational and in a part of the world that I had never been to and I still long to return to.
K. L. (Kelly) Ditmars was born in Kakabeka Falls, ON Canada, and has lived in several provinces since. She has lived and traveled to several countries both as a Christian Missionary and as a curious human soul. To support her traveling habit, she has worked in various industries and occupations throughout her life, from part-time catering to clerking in the Supreme Court of BC. Kelly completed a degree in Medieval Studies at the University of Victoria. She now lives in Victoria, BC where the adventure of life and her writing continues. All That is Takes is her debut novel.
Kelly loves to connect with her readers. You can find her on the following platforms.
Facebook – I have a private Facebook Group called Readers of K.L. Ditmars. I have a live event every Sunday (6:00 pm Pacific) where I talk about my writing journey. This is a new platform for me and I am enjoying this new means of engagement with my readers. Readers can join it via my Author page, through the link provided.
All That it Takes is available to order through your local independent bookstore (with the exception of Chapters/Indigo in Canada).
Seventy books is a reduction in reading for me, and I’m happy about that. It allowed more time in a crazy pandemic year for knitting, jigsaw puzzles, baking, and other comforting activities. Plus I read more nonfiction in 2020 and that takes longer.
Here are the books I’ve most enjoyed last year. Some were produced in 2020, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?
Hidden Secrets is one of three novels short-listed in the suspense category for The 2020 Word Awards (for work published in 2019).
Also short-listed are:
I haven’t read either of these novels yet, but I’ve met both authors, and their work is highly respected. Hidden Secrets is in good company. The beauty of this is that when the winning book is announced, I can either celebrate for my “imaginary friends” if it’s my book or celebrate for one of my real-life writer friends (at least acquaintances!). Win-win!
The 2020 Word Awards winners will be announced June 13, 7pm Eastern Time (8pm Atlantic) online via livestream on Facebook and Zoom. It’ll be free for anyone to tune in. Link details TBA.
For the complete short-list, visit The Word Guild’s Media page and click on the short-list announcement link.
Here’s your chance to win a print copy of Hidden Secrets (or an ebook if you prefer them) anywhere in the world. Just pop over to A Christian Writer’s World – Characters Who Grip Your Heart and leave a comment. Click here. Draw ends January 17, 2020.
Already read the book but you like reading author interviews? Click the link above and join the conversation. Host Lena Nelson Dooley always has interesting questions.