Conditional Recommendation: Intriguing mystery and interesting characters combine to form this hard-to-put-down suspense/love/conversion story.
In this first book of The O’Malley series you are introduced to the O’Malley family, a group of seven that grew up in the same orphanage and decided to “adopt” each other and make their own family. Now, all of them are in their 30’s and have interesting careers that range from hostage negotiator and U.S. Marshall to fireman and pediatrician. In this first book we see FBI agent Dave Richman from the prequel, Danger in the Shadows, meet his match in Kate O’Malley.
Kate is a hostage negotiator and is used to diffusing dangerous situations by allowing others to see only what she wants them to see. Childhood has taught her to only depend on herself and the O’Malleys, but Dave is determined to protect her, especially when someone bombs a plane and blames her. Kate is in over her head and must decide if Dave is someone she can depend on, and more importantly, if the God he believes in is someone she can trust, even when the investigation threatens to bring up her past and unexpected news threatens her family.
My cousin gave me this book to read when I was in my early teens and I was hooked immediately. I mean, when you are put into a bank with hostages, an angry man with a bomb ready to blow, and a hostage negotiator who walks in without a vest to make small talk you kind of want to see what happens! First, it hooks you in and all of a sudden you find yourself invested in some awesome characters. Dee Henderson is excellent at characterization and the O’Malley family is expertly portrayed. The family dynamics and camaraderie is so true to life that I can’t help smiling at the book as I read. In the many times that I have read this book I recall actually being a bit upset that I hadn’t read any other books where a family and their relationships were so beautifully written. Like I said in my review of Danger in the Shadows, Henderson gives you characters that are so intricately made that they could be real people.
I love the O’Malley family but I return to this book again and again because of Kate. I just love her! I love her quick-wit, attention to detail, intelligence, logical thinking, love and total dedication to family. She is very realistic in that she gets goofy when she’s tired, has little preferences like highly sugared coffee, and her mood changes based on the circumstances just like any woman’s would. I find her highly relatable and her realistic character refreshing since a lot of books I read contain characters that seem to be smoothed over; no one gets in a funk or just has an off day. I mean, c’mon! It is part of the human experience to be moody because you are running on little sleep, make mistakes because you are stressed, or say things you know were hurtful. I can sometimes look at the world and myself through this idealistic lens of how I should be or feel but more often than not this is not reality. This is why I love Kate so much: she is human in a knitty gritty, honest sort of way. She helps me come down from my idealistic cloud and plant my feet firmly on the ground. Real life is messy and you experience many emotions as you go through it—which is simply part of the human experience.
I really enjoy the art of suspense but so often there is too much evil and darkness for me to want to read much in this genre. This book is the exception. Yes, it spans genres because it a suspense story, a conversion story, and a mild love story all rolled into one, but when I’m craving suspense this is what I pick. It’s safe suspense. I know I’m going to get a mystery with the rush to see what happens next but I’m not going to be scarred for life. I have had to read some terrible books in high school and let me just say that there are nasty images that I still have in my head from those books. There are things you just can’t unsee, or in this case unread. Safe suspense is the way to go!
Mystery aside, a thread of this story is of how Kate learns about, questions, and comes to her belief in God. I think the book handles the quandary of God being both just and merciful very well, but the response you are to have to the gospel is very…confusing. The book explains that we are all sinners and God’s justice demands that sinners die, but He is also merciful and died in our place and we can escape our penalty if we accept what He has done. This conversation between Dave and Kate is great BUT the gospel is garbled simply by not being clear. Repent and faith are mentioned but not explained, and when Kate does presumably get saved during the church service she prays a prayer full of “I will’s,” and says that “I will follow you,” which is all very confusing. The Bible says that a person is saved when they simply believe that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for their sins. The “I will follow you” statement is very confusing because you don’t know if she’s referring to salvation or the Christian life or what is meant by “follow.” If applied to salvation it is completely inaccurate, if applied to the Christian life I could see how it could mean learning more of God and seeking to do or be what He wants you to do or be, but again this is not explained. It is hard to point at a particular aspect of the doctrine in this book and say that it is wrong—but I can say that it is confusing and unclear. This is the only reason I have made this a conditional recommendation.
If you are in the mood for some suspense and intricately developed characters without over exposing yourself to evil and violence then this is the book for you. Happy reading!