Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two Whodunits: The Bombing of Abortion Clinics and The Burning of a Ballerina (A Review)

If you're in the mood for mayhem, author Chéri Vausé has two new books for your entertainment. The first, The Truth and Nothing But Lies, revolves around the bombing of empty abortion clinics whose negligence led to the deaths of several women. The second, The Night Shadow, is a hard-bitten crime thriller, which lacks overt Catholic themes but contains a subtle redemptive message.

The Truth and Nothing But Lies

This issue-driven mystery novel falls within the tradition of pro-life novels such as Elizabeth Schmeidler's The Good Sinner, which centered around the murder of an abortionist. Considering how much the issue of abortion divides our country, it's surprising that more authors don't use it to dramatic effect. I suspect most writers are afraid or incapable of presenting the prolife viewpoint compellingly and compassionately.  Vausé does an excellent job of presenting arguments for both sides through the characters, and then letting the reader decide.  She avoids a preachy tone that would alienate or bore readers and keeps the tension high.

The book contains a great cast of supporting characters, including a modern nun, a corrupt politician, and an ACLU attorney.  Descriptions of the abortionist's office will not appeal to the faint of heart -- they are horrifyingly reminiscent of conditions in the clinic of recently convicted real-world abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The novel also slips sometimes into overuse of extended metaphor and personalization, which detracts from the story's flow. Nonetheless, it's an entertaining and worthwhile read.

The Night Shadow

This film noir style detective novel stars a female, Catholic version of famous fictional private investigator Sam Spade (remember Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon?).  She and her partner are hired to discover whether a young and talented ballerina was burned to death by arson or accident. Central to the story is a mysteriously beautiful blonde, who appears to be both victim and suspect. The setting shifts from steamy Los Angeles to mansions in the Hamptons to roach-ridden motels in lower Manhattan. Although the story lags in the middle and at 400+ pages runs a little long, the last 100 pages were absolutely riveting.

The main characters' Catholicism is understated and primarily cultural. For example, the p.i.'s Las Vegas marriage after a nasty divorce is certainly not sacramental. But it has the gritty realism of people trying to do their best with the sometimes lousy situations life has handed them. And the concluding scene of the extended family praying the rosary together in the hospital was very moving. Again, definitely worth the purchase.

My thanks to author Chéri Vausé for the free review copy. Both books are available at Amazon here and here.

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