Secrets and lies abound in this mystery set in small-town America
About the Book
Description (courtesy of Goodreads): Sanctuary introduces newly retired publishing executive, Theo Phillips, and his wife, Liddy, to the time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. They leave the shadows of Atlanta and move into a quaint home of notoriety. While making new friends, they discover twenty-first-century challenges threaten the town’s laid-back lifestyle. Theo’s interest in a memorial launches him into investigating tragic events that have left Shiloh unsettled. Theo and Liddy’s retirement dreams take a turn that could unravel both them and the idyllic life they and many others look for in Shiloh.
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My Review (3 out of 5)
The mystery at the heart of the book is well-plotted and has lots of different threads that come together satisfactorily at the conclusion of the book. I liked the depiction of the town of Shiloh that initially seems a bit too perfect but is shown, below the surface, to be dealing with darker issues.
However, I felt the book would have benefited from more aggressive editing and could have been around 100 pages shorter without losing any of the entertainment value of the central mystery narrative. It seemed to me there was quite a lot unnecessary detail, such as descriptions of what people were wearing, and some scenes that didn’t add much to the forward flow of the story. A number of times conversations, mainly between Theo and other characters, were then relayed to someone else, especially his wife Liddy. Now, I know this would happen in real life but, as readers we already know the information, we don’t need to be told it again!
I did feel the book tended towards overwriting, such as excessive use of adverbs, adjectives and repeated use of certain phrases – there is a lot of grinning, grimacing and scooting. No-one just smiles or grins, they have a ‘polite but wrinkled smile’, ‘a curious smile’ or a ‘polished grin’, a ‘relaxed grin’ or a ‘hopeful grin’. In other words, too much ‘tell’ when ‘show’ would be better.
The author is clearly a person of faith and, although I didn’t personally object to the many religious references, they did seem largely superfluous to the main story. However, if aim of the book is to appeal to the Christian fiction market then I guess this may not be such a problem. In fact, I feel the book explores themes that will resonate with people of all faiths and none – duty, integrity, family, community and the search for truth.
Despite the issues I’ve identified, I did find the story entertaining and I can see the author spent a lot of time making sure the plot threads knotted together at the end. Finally, as a UK reader, I want to thank the author for introducing me to some new phrases – like a “honey-do” list!
I received a review copy courtesy of the author in return for an honest review.
In three words: Entertaining, Christian, mystery
About the Author
After 30 years traveling in business, T. M. Brown returned to college and completed his degree with Magna Cum Laude honors. After seminary, he became a teacher, coach and preacher in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida until he retired in 2014. Since then, beyond his ongoing devotional and bible study writings (www.coachbrown.org), he tackled the challenge of authoring Southern Fiction stories. When not writing or leading a bible study, Mr. Brown and his wife of over 40 years enjoy traveling and spoiling their five grandchildren spread between Georgia and Kentucky.