Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Death on Lindisfarne by Fay Sampson

I was excited to read this second book in The Aidan Mysteries series (Kregel Publications), because I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series.  Fay Sampson did not let me down.  Death on Lindisfarne was even more intriguing than The Hunted Hare.

Story Synopsis:
It's been 6 months since Aidan's wife, Jenny, died from cancer and Aidan's still hurting too much to talk about it.  Aidan and Melangell are planning to take a course on the Celtic Christian saints at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which had been one of Aidan and Jenny's favorite places and subjects.  Their tour is led by Lucy, a former policewoman turned Methodist minister, who has hidden pain of her own. Aidan is surprised to find himself drawn to Lucy, and struggles with guilt that it's so soon after Jenny's death.

Their week at peaceful Lindesfarne is interrupted by the murder of 18 year old Rachel, a hurting girl Lucy is trying to help.  Despite the police wanting to deem the death a suicide, Aidan has doubts.  He can't help questioning the situation, and learns that Lucy shares his concerns.  It soon becomes clear that Lucy is also in danger, and Aidan is compelled to protect her. 

The story begins with the arrival of the tour participants at the boarding house.  They each arrive in what seems like exaggerated fashions, with their personalities quickly laid out for the reader.  Some readers may feel the characters are stereotyped, but it doesn't take away from the story.  It actually reminds me of many of Agatha Christie's novels set at holiday locations. Aidan would be more like a Miss Marple quietly noticing things about people (sometimes with Melangell's help) than a self-important investigative Poirot. 

As the story unfolds, some unexpected information is revealed about each of the characters.  There are several characters laid out as suspects in Rachel's death, though the motive is completely unclear until the end. I have to admit that I did begin to suspect who the true culprit was about 2/3 of the way through the story, but I wasn't sure until close to the end.  I was a bit annoyed that at the end of the book, the motive was explained, but not the where, what, when, and how.  However, other readers may appreciate the lack of macabre details.

I enjoyed watching the relationship between Aidan and Lucy move from wary strangers to tentative friendship, with mutual admiration and interest.  The reader is left with the hint of future books bringing Aidan, Lucy, and Melangell together again, though I expect it will be a slow-moving romance. Their relationship is awkward, and the romance was barely there.  At this point, there is only mutual admiration, and it's perfectly chaste.

The history of Lindisfarne and Christianity in the British Isles is skillfully woven into the book, as well as the faith of Aidan and Lucy.  This is not a heavy preaching book. It never lays out the full gospel message for the readers, but that actually adds to the natural progression of the story.  The ongoing debate over a gospel of love and grace vs. a gospel of hell-fire and damnation is touched on, as is the debate over a woman's role in church leadership. This may bother some readers, but I just considered it part of the tension between two characters.

Death on Lindisfarne would be perfectly safe for my 14 year old daughter to read, or my 12 year old son.  I don't think my son will be interested, but I would have let my daughter read it when she was 12.  The improprieties of the suspected characters are mentioned in vague enough terms that a mature 12 or 14 year old would still be safe reading the book. 

I loved Death on Lindisfarne and will be eagerly watching for the next installment of The Aidan Mysteries

A copy of this book was provided to me, free, in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received and these thoughts are my own.

April E.

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