|Cindy Preston & Rabbi Jeremiah Silverman
(creator: Debbie Viguié)
|Cindy Preston is the church secretary at First Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Pine Springs, California. She is a convinced Christian, and some 30 years old with long, light brown hair and vivid green eyes. Her sister had died in an accident when she herself was 15 years old and she is still hurt by the memory of what had happened. She has a mother whom she does not like, who much prefers her brother Kyle, but who keeps asking her about her potential boyfriends. In fact, she is nothing if not cautious about her relastionships and usually “didn't even visit the homes of guys she dated until at least the fifth date, when she was sure they weren't psychos." She has a quiet sense of humor, as shown when, after being invited to a Seder by Rabbi Jeremiah Silverman, and after he has had to pretend to be her husband in order to get to see her in hospital, she comments, "That's the last time I go to a Seder."
Rabbi Jeremiah Silverman has been the rabbi at the Reformed synagogue next to First Shepherd Church for almost 2 years. He has black hair, proves to be an accomplished lip reader and knows a liar when he hears one. There is some mystery in his Israeli past that he never mentions, but it seems to have involved danger and excitement - perhaps in the Israeli army. Certainly he turns out to be good in a fight and an expert marksman. Cindy and he slowly come to realise that, despite their differences, they have much in common.
Debbie Viguié says she has been writing for most of her life. She has experimented with poetry and non-fiction, but her true passion lies in writing novels (over twenty of them), mostly of a supernatural kind. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of California at Davis. While at Davis she met her husband, Scott. They now live on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Before becoming a full-time writer, she spent two years working as a church secretary. Her other books include romances and books about witches, as well as Christian vampire novels
The story gets off to a gripping and intriguing start, the basic idea being that the murderer is following the events of Easter week, starting off by killing a man and leaving his dead body on a donkey on Palm Sunday on Palm Avenue. He also kills the modern equivalent of a money changer, then there's a death based on the story of Jesus having his feet washed, and so on. The murderer does not just stop at the one victim but arranges whole tableaux of dead bodies (including one of the Last Supper) that get more and more complicated (and unlikely) as the story progresses. There's even a crucifixion with two (real) thieves stretched out on surrounding crosses. It all leads up to a melodramatic climax, with bodies scattered all over the place, and a totally unconvincing explanation of both motive and method. How just one person could create such havoc all by himself, is never explained.
However, the church background is convincingly described, complete with all-too-realistic squabbling between the pastor and his minister of drama and choir. And Cindy and Jeremiah's (very slowly) developing relationship, and her doubts about it, hold the interest. Judaism is presented very attractively with understanding accounts of, for example, the Seder meal. It would be interesting to know how the author is so well acquainted with the Jewish background for which she shows such sympathy.
When a Jewish girl whose whole family has been murdered asks Jeremiah why all this has happened, he “took her hand and looked in her eyes. 'Olivia, I do not know why Adonai chose to let this happen. I do know this, there is a purpose for you on this earth, work for you to do, joy for you to own, and sorrows you to share. If this were not true, you would have been allowed to go with them.'
This is so much more real than the machinations of the main plot, about which there are (rather condescending) discussion questions at the end of the book, such as, "Two of Cindy's coworkers, the pastor and the music director, can't get along, and their squabbles hurt the rest of the staff. Are you involved in a dispute with a coworker or fellow church member that is hurting other people?"
Cindy's friendship with Jeremiah had been slowly fading since their previous adventure, but gets off to new start with him (once again) finding her closeted with a dead body. As the detective, Mark Walters, says with a sigh, “Here we all are --- again."
It all gets very sentimental with Cindy feeling as sorry for the dogs as for the homeless. She is still being phoned by her mother who this time has seen a picture of her in a newspaper being hugged by Joseph and imagines that he must be her boyfriend. Cindy tells her she's too busy to come home for Thanksgiving. “She hadn't gone home for four years, and she didn't want to." She obviously cares a lot more for the missing dogs than for than her mother for, as the author explains, "All were moved by a bond with a furry creature who gave love unconditionally."
However it is the cozy romance background that the author seems happiest with, as when she devotes page after page to Cindy's experiences as a speed dating session. There is also a long description of a timeshare presentation where she wins an (unwanted) trip to Hawaii, and one of the homeless wins a portable TV. It sounds too good to be true.
Meanwhile we are getting more clues about Jeremiah's past, as when he “dressed all in black from head to toe. He put on the cap and mask, which were made of the thin, black material used to hide a person's face in many of the Halloween costumes that were so popular. The effect was perfect. Even as he stared at himself in the mirror, he felt his eyes drifting slightly away from his own reflection. He could see just fine through the cloth, but no one could see him. Strapped to his left leg was a small black knife, also dull black, and a tiny black toolset." And so he sets off to break into the morgue to examine the body of an ex-associate, perhaps dating back to the days when he (may have) worked as an undercover agent in Israel. The author admits that he is her favourite character in the book because, “I love strong, male leads". All this may have been intended to be Romantic, but much of it ends up by sounding plain silly.
Just occasionally characters like the homeless Bernadette (whom Cindy invites to join her for Thanksgiving) and the girl Brenda, ashamed of her wretched home, come to life and you feel real sympathy for them, but you can't help feeling that, in the end, it is the dogs that matter most.
As the body count rises alarmingly, Detective Mark asks Cindy, “Why am I not even remotely surprised? Clearly I should stop investigating on my own and just follow you around instead."
Meanwhile Joseph admits to Cindy, “I haven't slept well since all this started. My home has been broken into, and now I learn two people have been killed in it. How am I supposed to get any rest ever again? I have contacted a different security company to redo the entire system next week, but I'm not sure I'll feel better even after that happens." It's a worry, isn't it?
Detective Mark notices that Cindy's "eyes were bright, her face was flushed, and she was ready to throw herself in harm's way. It was a far cry from the terrified, mousy little secretary he had met a few months before." But she can still sound rather simplistic as when one of the homeless tells her, “You know what my favourite Bible verse is?"
Lie Down in Green Pastures (2011)
It is not long before things get increasingly implausible both for Cindy (who is quite prepared to kill two of her enemies by throwing darts in their faces) and for Jeremiah who gets stranded at the flooded camp site with a group of teenagers who, after finding a bomb in the power lines, come under heavy fire from a trained band of professional assassins (!). But luckily he had had all that Israeli training, and was able to wrestle with a mountain lion (which he flipped “about fifteen feet down the hill and directly on top of the second gunman coming up the hill. The crash of the 300-pound cat into the man's chest killed both him and the lion instantly"). And he knew exactly how to kill and fillet a rattlesnake, and could even set a boy's broken leg.
At the end of the book, there's a strange list of serious discussion questions such as “Everyone deals with death in different ways, finds different ways of healing. How do you lean on God when you experience times of mourning and do you allow those around you to help you during these times?" And "Is there someone you've been meaning to spend more time with but you just haven't gotten around to it, a family member, friend, or even God? What can you do this week to strengthen that relationship?" How the author expects the load of nonsense that makes up this particular plot, to lead to discussions of this sort is not explained.
|The plot is much more original than the cover may suggest - but in the end it passes all belief.|