Nazareth Child
by Darrell James
(Midnight Ink, $14.95, NV) ISBN 978-0-7387-2369-3
****
Arizona investigator Del Shannon is tough and there is almost no one she canít findÖexcept for her own mother.† Del has lived in Arizona with her father Roy, a heavy drinker, as long as she can remember, and has no memory of her mother. A moon tattoo on her wrist, the symbol she found pinned to a pair of pajamas, is the only reminder she has of the woman she thinks abandoned her and her father.†

After Delís father dies, she is recruited by the FBI to return to the town, or compound, where she was born and where her father still owned a home. Daniel Cole, an FBI operative had gone into the Kentucky hills to investigate the town, led by healer Silas Rule and has not been heard of in many weeks.† Frank Falconet will pose as Delís husband and the two will go and live in the house where Del was born and try and locate Daniel and, possibly, Delís mother.†

When they arrive in the Appalachian town, they are met with suspicion and almost immediately shunned, especially when it Delís identity is revealed. The more the two learn about the town and its charismatic, but evil leader, the more they fear Daniel will not be found alive. And the more concerned they grow that they themselves may not be found alive. †

While the plotting of the narrative is rather straightforward with little surprises, it is the characters that make this first mystery stand out.† Del is a multi-layered character who grapples daily with the loss of her mother, her angry father and her own feelings of self-doubt.† Outwardly she is a tough broad, but inside she is loving and fragile.† Falconet is from New York, a completely different world than Delís, and in the midst of a divorce with a daughter just beginning her teenage years and bullet wounds from each of his last six undercover operations.†

Falconet too fights with his own demons, but somehow together, the two make a whole person and begin to help heal each other. They immediately trust each other, unusual for two people so damaged.† Silas is pure evil, as are his followers; his son, though a product of his environment, shows possibilities for redemption as does a young woman who is Silasís newest wife.†

There is a certain fascination with cults and the mindset of those who become involved in them and Darrell James describes the culture vividly. As Del and Falconet continue to heal, they make tentative steps toward a possible partnership, both business and personal. ††††††††

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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