"Death will have a reckoning, and for Cody and Remy it could mean the end of everything they’ve loved."
Winter Austin has written a stunning conclusion to her Degrees of Darkness Series, published by Crimson Romance, having begun with Relentless, followed by Retribution, Revenge, and now the final book Reckoning. Each novel presents another addition to the horrifying evil besetting Detective Remy LeBeau and "cowgirl" Cody Lewis. Thinking all had been resolved in Remy's past in Revenge, there's a whole new wickedness come to town and this time Cody's father Logan Lewis and Remy's partner Detective Heath Anderson share knowledge hidden from Remy and Cody.
I really don't want to create *spoilers* for this series if you haven't read each one in order, so this review will skim details and focus on the characters. This is a powerful, strongly-written romantic suspense series which deserves to be read from start to finish. Each story connects to the next one taking the readers deeper and deeper into the characters' psyches and motivations.
Cody is the only one who doesn't undergo much change. She's a feisty, hot-headed little spitfire redhead who acts and talks before thinking things through, and this habit inevitably causes problems between her and Remy. Between the two of them, they need a solid course on how to communicate. Instead they maintain secrets from each other in order to protect one another based on past pain. It never works.
This is where Heath usually intervenes. He's able to see through both of them, but he's only able to really communicate with Cody, understanding things from observing her behavior, words, and attitude when difficult subjects erupt under stressful situations which always seem to throw them together, causing Remy grief and jealousy.
Remy can't pick up on the subtleties of Cody's irritations because she disguises them rather than dealing with them outright. In Reckoning there are multiple issues which rage to the forefront of Cody's life, none of which she wants to discuss with anybody, especially Remy because of how she thinks he'll react.
Logan Lewis, Cody's beloved father and only remaining parent, finds himself in a more prominent role in this story, knee-deep in a hurtful past which goes all the way back to his military days in Vietnam, none of which Cody knows anything about. When an unexpected package arrives on the porch of Logan's ranch dwelling, he is sickened by the contents. Determined to find the sender and confront the dangerous possibilities, he leaves the ranch with no explanation about his sudden trip.
Opening with a grisly murder in progress performed by a sadistic killer, Reckoning continues on full tilt until the Epilogue. With unknown history about Cody's mom and dad pushing its way to the forefront of several different murders, Heath's secretive knowledge about the way a victim was murdered, and Cody's abusive ex-boyfriend out of jail, there is suddenly fear on more than one front.
Reckoning is a taut, complex, fast-moving thriller with a twist you won't see coming while it still manages to include a little hot romance, relational drama (and silliness), and characters who work very hard to protect each other yet somehow cause each other to end up in life or death situations. A bittersweet but satisfying conclusion to this well-done series, Winter Austin ends it with a bang.
Faith remains in the background of the story, and there is some profanity.
One insignificant complaint: I wish they would've used the face on the cover of Retribution for this one.
If you're unfamiliar with the author Alton Gansky, you've missed out. He's written some fabulous novels filled with adventure, mystery, outrageous imagination, and good writing. I reviewed his latest exciting novel Wounds and his collaboration with Jeff Struecker in Certain Jeopardy. I highly recommend you visit him here.
I had the privilege and pleasure of doing an interview with Al, and he made it easy to converse. If you've ever wanted to see me "unmasked", this is the place.
If you manage to sit through the interview, let me know your thoughts.
Father, I pray you would continue to bless Al's many talents. Open doors for him, increase his opportunities, and showcase his abilities done to honor you. Thank you for the privilege of spending a little portion of time with this gifted man. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace, because the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Saying goodbye to characters can be painful, satisfying, a relief, or a joy. Series writers often come to the end of a long storyline, having lost a few characters along the way, before final words declare "The End" for the primary characters.
If an author has done the story well, the reader will be sorry to say goodbye. Those characters have become almost real, almost family or friends. Well-developed characters speak into the lives of readers even if their particular circumstances don't. Their personalities etch a picture in the minds of readers, favorable or otherwise.
If writers fail to engage the reader with lasting impressions of their characters, their stories will fade like old denim and be less useful. Characters are the heartbeat of a story. It's always a risk to terminate a favorite character. The writer must determine when it can be done without leaving a gaping hole in the story. Usually it happens near the end to save the other characters from having to fill in for the significant loss.
When the novel ends, characters leave the lives of writers and readers. It's important to make that farewell an emotional one. Be it sadly satisfying or a joyful parting, bidding adieu should bring a meaningful resolution.
Father, parting is difficult. But it should still be meaningful. Thank you for giving purpose to every experience. Please help us to walk through all of them with you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I can tell you what several of the direct inspirations were for my novels. One was the result of a word from the Lord. Another was from the burden of prayer for a particular actor. Another was formed from the words of a song. And others came from characters who announced they wanted to be in a story.
What inspired you to write your stories?
Father, you're the ultimate source of real inspiration. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Writing "the story". Okay so we have the pantsers and the outliners. But how does the story travel from mind to matter? Inspiration can be practical for professionals. But it also comes on a whim, a word, a phrase, a song, a picture, a headline, or you tell me.
Writers know that publishers tend to expect formulaic fiction. After all, they explain, we all know romance, mystery, whatever, has a specific format or formula. Religiously adhered to because, they say, of the readers' expectations, most of the time you know where these stories are going by the third chapter even though they take place in different cities, countries, or galaxies. If they're a romance, by golly, the players better do what's expected of them no matter what time period or location. May I say: borrinnggg?! It takes an amazing writer to break out of that formula with something special or unique.
So, what's the story? Are you a reader who expects your fiction to follow the normal parameters or you're disappointed? Or do you long for the reading adventure to take a different journey and delve into the slightly unpredictable? I think you know my stance.
Father, thank you for imagination and the creativity it produces. Please bless those who write for you with fresh stories and dedication to what you have for them to do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The expression "flying by the seat of his pants" points to unplanned indulgence. Whether it's attacking a responsibility, task, or hobby, it connotates a bit of whimsical engagement without real foresight or research. When it's used to describe writers, it's been shortened to "pantsers" or "seat-of-the-pants" which reveals the author does not set out with a strict outline or other means to dictate exactly how the story will be plotted, written, and concluded.
While the term brings a general anxiety to those who outline, pantsers don't exclude certain means of organization if their story demands it of them. Many authors have developed a hybrid capability which fluctuates somewhere in the middle of either extreme.
Not that I think "pantsers" are even close to being extreme since I am one. Having said that, at times I make notes of what needs to be included farther into the storyline. When I wrote my first novel, I had to keep a notebook of all the races and horses' names in order to keep them from coming back to a race too soon.
Writers are as prone to rituals as any creative types. But pantsers? They "fly by the seat of their pants" and wouldn't do it any other way.
Father, you make us in so many ways. We're different, and it makes for an exciting variety. Thank you for all the many ways we can choose to honor you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Poison Townby Creston Mapes is the second book in The Crittendon Files following Fear Has A Name. Catching up with Jack Crittendon, ace reporter for the downtown Trenton City, Ohio, Dispatch newspaper, we join him in his freezing car on the way to his favorite family of mechanics on the poorer side of Trenton City where a huge fiberglass manufacturing plant (Demler-Vargus) seems to be the source of workers there and nearby citizens turning up with various cancers.
Now Jack's elder mechanic Galen Randall is in the hospital for similar symptoms as other people who've worked in the plant and some who just live in the same area. When Galen lost his wife with those same symptoms, he began to research Demler-Vargus just as his neighbor Spivey Brinkman had done. Between the two of them, they'd gathered all sorts of incriminating material about the huge plant.
As Jack's interest is piqued, he convinces another reporter to join him in the investigation, but for whatever reason his boss is reluctant to pursue it, delegating minimum time for their research.
While Jack is trying to uncover as much info as he can, things aren't going well at home with his wife Pam. In the previous novel she was kidnapped by a former schoolmate who was the abused oddball of their school. Jack has never come to terms with his wife forgiving the man and has purchased a gun he wears in an ankle holster in case he ever encounters the big bruiser after learning he's been released and now lives not too far from them. His rage toward the supposedly rehabilitated man has estranged him from his walk with the Lord, and Pam is quick to point out his unforgiveness and how it's changed him.
Creston Mapes has written a good story, albeit not one with which we're unfamiliar. What makes it exciting is the final third of the novel when the villainous action amplifies and all the pieces begin to come together with action-packed scenes and a few needed character transformations as Jack comes to terms with his own poisonous attitude.
My primary problem is with Pam. I've never been able to warm up to her. For me she comes off as the stereotypical Christian. As far as I'm concerned, Jack is a saint to put up with her holier-than-thou whining about his gun - she resents he didn't discuss it with her and has hidden it from her - and his slew of "religious" problems which she is quick to point out. Her guardianship of "the girls" (their two daughters) seems overbearing at times and conflicts with her professed "God will protect us" mantra.
The Randall family is the most entertaining bunch in the book with Travis and Galen stealing almost every scene where they appear.
A Christian novel written for the CBA, Poison Town will appeal to this specific audience.
Chapter One of the third book in The Crittendon Files, Sky Zone, is included at the end of this story.
The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia - your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
To conclude my limited knowledge of French words and phrases for the week, I will end with this well known expression of thank you very much.
Thank you to those who visit here, who comment, who write, read, and voice opinions, who love Jesus, and to those who don't yet know Him. Thank you for taking the time to communicate via social media. Thank you for respecting my views even when we differ. Thank you very much for being an integral part of Into the Fire. Wouldn't do it without you.