2003, 293 pages
The Lies of Saints is the third book in the Nick Barrett Mysteries series and the very best of the bunch.
Twenty years ago Victoria Sebastian, and her daughter, disappeared without a trace. Soon after she was declared legally dead. Now someone wants to know what happened and has hired private investigator Kellie Mixon to find answers. However, answers prove hard for her to come by after a serious car accident lands her on her back in a hospital bed. Fortunately her good friend Nick Barrett is always willing to help, and he clearly has sleuthing in his blood. He soon makes connections between Victoria Sebastian's disappearance and others who have disappeared as much as 100 years ago.
This is a solid mystery with a stellar cast of characters. In addition to Nick, former world traveller, former college astronomy teacher, current amateur sleuth, there is Angel, his ward, a teenage street-smart mostly-honest hustler who might make her first million before she's able to drive. Then there are the two ancient antique salesladies who have as their hobby the meeting out of justice to the telemarketing industry. Add to that a pastor who says just what his parishioners really need to hear, and you have the makings of some great verbal interchanges. The dialogue was so good I must have read a good ten percent of the book out loud to my wife.
One example: Barrett is helping out Kellie Mixon because he is a good friend. He is also the perfect gentleman – he knows Mixon has a boyfriend, so he would never think to act on his attraction. Or so he thinks. But his pastor – the eighty-something Samuel Thorpe – knows the way of men and women and is more than a little concerned. He knows that what a man intends can change quickly, given the wrong sort of circumstances. So when Nick pops by for a visit, Pastor Thorpe decides this is the time for a needed, awkward conversation.
"It's a ticklish business to be friends with a woman," Samuel said, "particularly one like Miss Kellie. She's fine-looking, and smart and of good character. I'm certain you're not blind to that. I doubt for that matter, that it's escaped her notice that a woman could do worse than land a man like you. But as you mentioned, she's in a committed relationship, Nick.... Now I'm not suggesting that you have or intend to do anything inappropriate. But it's like driving a car. Good drivers aren't the ones who can handle a car in a skid and keep it on the road. Good drivers are those who recognize when conditions are bad and take action not to get into trouble in the first place."
"Kellie's in trouble," I said. "She needs help. That's all I'm doing."
"You don't have to justify your motives to me. Just beware of them yourself. All I'm saying is if there's trouble way up the road, it'd be a lot better for you to see it coming and slow down before you reach it."
This is the kind of conversation we would like to be capable of having, the sort of pointed message we wish we had the courage to give... or receive. There are also a pile of laugh out loud parts that I just had to share with my wife.
Though this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone. In fact, I would advise it – while this is a great read, the first two are marred by a gospel presentation that has an Arminian "try your hardest" bent to it. For example in the second book, Crown of Thorns, Angel explains the gospel this way:
"Nick told me all I got to do is believe that God made this world and all of us. Said some people get hung up on how God made the world when maybe all we got to do is wonder why. Said if I can believe that God made this world, then all I got to believe is that God wants me to come home to Him after I die, which is why God sent Jesus, and all I got to do is believe Jesus came from God and follow what Jesus told us when he was here. So I said to Nick, 'what's that?' And Nick told me it was to try to love God as best I could and try to show that love to other people. I told Nick there had to be more to it than that, and he said other people keep trying to build rules around it, but no, Jesus spent his time fighting against people who made too many rules, and no, there weren't much more to it than that. He said love is a special thing, and of all that's in the world, love's the one thing that points us to God.""Believe and try to do good" sounds enough like the gospel to fool people into believing it is the real deal. But it is a world of difference between this and what we hear when Jesus calls us to "repent and believe."
The author's theistic evolutionary beliefs are also evidenced here.
Sigmund Brouwer remains one of my favorite Christian authors despite his theistic evolutionary and Arminian beliefs because, while he misunderstands what God is like, he has a great insight into what Man is like. And he is a superb storyteller!
So of you like good dialogue, a good mystery and simply superb storytelling, skip the first two books and pick up The Lies of Saints.
Canadians, you can pick it up at Amazon.ca here, and in the US it can be found at Amazon.com here.