26/08/2008

A Whisper of Danger (by Catherine Palmer)

I first came across books by Catherine Palmer some years ago, when browsing the rather small Christian fiction section on the MV Doulos. I read three or four of her books, and found them fairly enjoyable light reading, albeit a bit predictable.

Recently I was given a few more books by this author, by a friend who move away. So, wanting something undemanding, I embarked yesterday on 'A Whisper of Danger'.

The story features Jess, who works as the illustrator of children's books, and her ten-year-old son Spencer, generally known as Splint. He's a highly intelligent boy, who's very fond of his mother. She is devoted to him, although she's surprisingly strict at times, and rarely seems to discuss important things with him. I felt it was slightly surreal that in the first chapter she let him know that, not only had she been left a mansion totally unexpectedly by an old art teacher of hers, on Zanzibar Island, but that they were packing up and moving there within a week!

I also found it slightly bizarre that, although Jess had apparently grown up in Africa, and lived there until six years previously, she was surprised at the lack of supermarkets on Zanzibar, and that she had to haggle for prices.

Still, these early irritations soon disappeared, as Jess and Splint get caught up in an exciting adventure. The house is full of valuable paintings, there's a sunken wreck accessible from their beach, Jess's old art teacher was apparently murdered, and - most confusing of all for her - her husband, who walked out on her eleven years previously, suddenly reappears in her life. She is afraid to trust him, but it's clear that he's very different from the irresponsible alcoholic she remembers, and she is very reluctant to let him know that he is Splint's father.

The book is fast-paced and well-written, and by the time I was about half-way through I found it very difficult to put down. The characters weren't deeply sympathetic, but believable enough; there were quite a few of them, but I found them easy enough to distinguish and remember.

It's American Christian fiction, so there are several Biblical references and conversion experiences described; however they're not done in an over-pushy style. An old African woman quote Scripture in a way that works well, and God is mentioned in a realistic way; there are no unnecessary explanations of what salvation means, or sermons as asides.

All in all, I found this an enjoyable book. It's apparently the second in a series of three, and I'm pleased to see that I have the third in the series too from the same source.

Recommended to anyone who likes a light read with a little excitement, and doesn't mind a Christian influence.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 26th August 2008

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