Book Review: Death in the Shadows by Paul McCusker

January 6, 2017 Christian, contemporary, mystery/suspense, Paul McCusker 0

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about the book

When Father Gilbert traded in his detective’s badge for an Anglican priest’s collar, he never expected that murder would follow him. Even a church conference in the quant seaside town of Englesea offers no escape.

The vision of a dead woman, water dripping from her body, draws Gilbert into a mystery that seems straightforward, but soon entangles him in a power struggle between corrupt players who want to dominate the illegal sex trade in town. The victims are pawns in a game that extends to London and across international borders.

The dead cry for justice and Father Gilbert fights against forces hiding in the shadows. Can he champion the truth in time to stop more people from dying?

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SERIES: Father Gilbert Mysteries #2
GENRE: Mystery
PUBLISHER: Lion Fiction
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2016
PAGES: 320

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“One encounter, one night, one indulgence here doesn’t stay here… It goes home with you … It marks your soul.”

Death in the Shadows is a book I have to look at in two parts to properly review.  On one hand, it’s a mystery. On the other hand, it’s an eye-opening glimpse into the uglier side of humanity and isn’t afraid to address some hot-button issues not usually explored in Christian fiction.

As a mystery, it’s ok. I felt it was slow in parts, though the last third picks up quite nicely and the character of Father Gilbert – a former detective turned Anglican priest – is unique and compelling. His uncle George adds some humor to the mix, needed moments of levity in a book full of heartwrenching topics.  The beginning third has a good steady pace but as I said the second third seems to lag a bit. However, by the last several chapters, readers are in for a bevy  of twists and turns that flip what you thought you knew upside down.

As a spotlight on the spiritual world, morality struggles of priests, prostitution and human trafficking, Death in the Shadows is simultaneously riveting and disturbing. Father Gilbert sees dead people, though even he himself can’t figure out how or why. He doesn’t know if they are demons taking on the spectral forms of dead humans or instead perhaps sinful souls caught in a holding pattern of sorts. He’s also at a religious conference where an instance of casual conversation between attendees and conference personnel leads to a discussion on the moral temptations that ministers face. This in turn leads to a debate on whether the “what happens here, stays here” philosophy really holds up or if what Father Gilbert says – “One encounter, one night, one indulgence here doesn’t stay here… It goes home with you … It marks your soul.” – is closer to the truth. Combined with a fellow priest’s confession of a homosexual affair and a monk’s frequent visits to a massage parlor, this reminder that pastors and priests are human just like the rest of us should weigh heavy on the hearts of those who follow Jesus … and prompt us to pray more fervently for our ministers. Finally, McCusker raises further awareness for the epidemic of prostitution and human trafficking that is crippling our world. This is something about which I’m passionate and, while this aspect of the novel was disturbing to read, I am thankful for authors like McCusker who don’t shy away from it.

Bottom Line: Death in the Shadows by Paul McCusker is an honest look at some tough topics. The author treats each issue with dignity and grace, giving enough detail to convey the ugliness of the situation without crossing into vulgarity. The mystery itself is really secondary, in my opinion, to the raw picture of humanity that is painted on the pages. And the ending will certainly leave you waiting desperately for a sequel!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 3.5 stars / Thought-provoking read

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about the author

PAUL McCUSKER is the Peabody Award-winning writer and director of the audio drama “Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom,” along with the multiple award-winning audio dramatizations of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Screwtape Letters,” “A Christmas Carol,” his original series “The Luke Reports: The Life of Jesus” (honored as Best Audio Drama by the prestigious Audie Awards) and “The Father Gilbert Mysteries” (also an Audie Award nominee), all for Focus On The Family Radio Theatre.

McCusker is also a writer and director for the long-running children’s audio program “Adventures in Odyssey,” scripting over 250 episodes as well as 2 of the animated video series, authoring 18 spin-off novels, and serving as the general editor for “The Imagination Station” chapter books. For adults, he has written the Gold Medallion-nominated “Epiphany,” “The Mill House” and, with Dr. Walt Larimore, “The Gabon Virus” and “The Influenza Bomb.” His plays and musicals have been performed in churches and community theaters across the country. One, “A Time for Christmas,” was a Dove Award nominee. His lyrics have been put to music by the Grammy Award-winning Michael W. Smith.

He lives in Colorado with his family.

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