Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Back On Murder (A Roland March Mystery): Review

J. Mark Bertrand
Bethany House Publishers, 2010

Roland March used to be one of Houston’s best homicide detectives, but ever since he suffered a personal tragedy, his work has become shoddy and unreliable. Now his position in the force is tenuous. Yet one day, the scene of a drug massacre ignites a little of his old fire: he thinks this crime is connected to the disappearance of a Houston teenager and is determined to prove it. As March follows the divergent trails of the two crimes, he finds that he is both right and wrong.

As I read the narration, I kept trying to figure out why the flavor felt so oddly removed. Halfway through it hit me: not a single cop, drug dealer, or other character had uttered a swear word. The clean flavor of the novel makes it more restful reading but admittedly decreases the realism (I have a feeling that when hardened, cynical cops are expressing rage, they use epithets instead of confining themselves to good English). Violence and gore are also minimized.

The plot moves forward at a satisfying pace and is well-constructed. The characters are astonishingly well drawn for a “Christian” novel—they are believable and avoid expressing themselves in clichés. The protagonist himself is essentially agnostic and angry with God, but he interacts with a variety of Christian characters who struggle with realistic internal conflicts of their own. I am impressed by the author’s choice to write a mainstream series in which Christianity is portrayed but not used as a band aid to solve all of the characters’ problems. The ending of the mystery was not as strong as I hoped, but overall the book was an interesting and enjoyable read. It’s well worth picking up if you are looking for a bit of clean, light fiction. 




  1. The proper balance between realism and palatability (is that a word?) on a number of axes in fiction is an interesting problem.

    1. Very true! It's interesting that mainstream storytellers have no problem with being "unrealistic" in order to be more interesting (i.e., condensing their characters' lives to avoid boring the reader) but quibble at being "unrealistic" in order to tell a cleaner story.

  2. I'm always looking for a bit of clean light fiction, for me and my teens. Many thanks!

  3. My interest is piqued by the fact Christianity isn't used as a band aid for all the problems. Too many books use that I think.

  4. Sounds like an interesting read, thanks for the share!


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