Though I retired from reviewing books for 5 Minutes for Books a few months ago, I was excited for the opportunity to read and review Sibella Giorello's latest novel The Mountains Bow Down. I've read the first three books in her series featuring forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon and enjoyed them thoroughly. Giorello writes the type of redemptive fiction I most enjoy: intriguing characters, absorbing plot, refreshing perspective and a mystery that remains so until the final resolution. All that plus a good dose of Southern sensibility and what you have is not your typical Christian fiction fare.
As I said, Giorello's protagonist, Raleigh Harmon, is a forensic geologist working as an FBI agent, an unconventional premise to be sure. Raleigh's character is honestly drawn, with faults and failures that make her both complex and believable, traits important to me the reader (in other words, I have no patience for perfect, plastic heroines). In this her latest adventure, Raleigh finds herself in the middle of yet another mysterious and complicated case, this time while on a cruise to Alaska. Here's the publisher's description:
Everything's going to work out. Time away always makes things better . . ..
That's what FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, The Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who's hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.
But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh's vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship's security chief tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh's forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.
Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the FBI and receives her nemesis-perpetual ladies man Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack-who might not be such a jerk after all.
And that's only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.
Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a situation so steep and so complex that even the mountains might bow down.
I wanted to like The Mountains Bow Down and I did. Is it my favorite Raleigh novel? I don't think so. While there are twists and turns and quirky characters aplenty, I felt the cruise ship as a setting to be somewhat contrived. I missed Raleigh pounding the pavement as it were as she seeks to unravel the case at hand and achieve some degree of respect in her profession, the Raleigh of the earlier novels. Again, that is not to say that this installment isn't an enjoyable read. It is. The ups and downs of her relationship with Jack keeps the reader guessing while the desperation and despair that mark her relationship with her mom keep the story authentic and sympathetic. The mystery is mysterious, the resolution surprising, and Raleigh remains likeable and believable.
I like Raleigh. I like a good mystery. I like a well written story. Though perhaps I didn't like it as much as Raleigh's earlier adventures, I still liked this one alot.
Thanks to Amy at Litfuse for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
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