Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: 'Hidden in Harmony' by J.R. Thompson

Montana author JR Thompson was born and raised in West Virginia and worked with at-risk youth. After marrying he moved to a small ghost town in Montana, became a preacher and now serves as an assistant pastor and also serves as the director of Canaan's Land Boys Ranch. JR has published six books to date and is now focusing on his Harmony Series of which HIDDEN IN HARMONY: DANGER IS IMMINENT is the initial volume.

JR’s background as a minister and a man who has worked with at risk youth prepares us for the mixture of mystery, suspense and overlay of Christian spirituality, and while he makes all these aspects come together well in this novel, it is his ability to create vivid impressions with his prose that makes this novel a very successful first installation in a series.
His ability to jumpstart the terror is evident in the opening pages – ‘’The dilapidated rags suddenly sprung to life, unveiling a helpless looking man who appeared to have been there for hours. Oh my, Alayna thought. What is going on here? Collin asked her to stay in the Jeep and not to wake Remington, while he stepped out and cautiously approached the stranger. “Can I help you with something, buddy?” he called out. A weak, exhausted voice barely managed to rasp, “Your assistance would be most beneficial. I’m drenched, cold, and ravenous.” Attempting to rise, the man tumbled back to his space atop the wooden stairs. Grasping the door handle, Alayna started to get out. Then, she came to her senses. Apprehensively, she watched as her husband sprinted to the shivering, obviously homeless, middle-aged fellow. Collin knelt down next to the man, spoke a few words, and then motioned for his wife to join him. Wasting no time, Alayna rushed to the porch. The stranger’s gentle, needy eyes demanded her attention. Looks can be deceiving, she cautioned herself. Stay strong. “Hon, this harmless guy is worn clean out. He’s going to have to stay here tonight. Why don’t you go inside and I’ll get Remington?” Alayna wasn’t keen on the idea of a drifter dozing on her porch, not even for one minute. We don’t know this man from Adolph Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer. This is definitely not the way I planned on spending my Friday night. Without a telephone, the Internet, or even a close neighbor for that matter, if the transient wound up being a sociopath, the Russells were on their own. Alayna took comfort in knowing Collin was strong and courageous, but he didn’t even own a gun. Right or wrong, she feared for her family’s safety. She had married an enormous hearted, yet incredibly obstinate salesman. Collin had already made a decision and it was set in concrete. It would be a waste of her sweet-smelling breath to try to dissuade him. Without uttering a word, she ascended the stairs — being sure to step as far away from the beggar as possible.’

JR provides a terse synopsis that opens the window to the story to come – ‘Would you be willing to break the law in order to protect your family? Blinded by compassion, Collin Russell thrusts his entire family into jeopardy while dealing with a homeless man who collapses on his doorstep. Having no idea Brock has formerly been accused of cannibalism, he gives the stranger a sweet taste of northern hospitality – inadvertently enlisting his family in more intense spiritual warfare than he’s ever known. When Brock’s questionable past comes to light, Collin and his family plunge themselves into a bout of private detective work where they are forced to deal with physical assaults, threats, kidnappings, and murder. Unmasking the truth behind a decade worth of missing persons proves to be a more daunting task than the Russells bargained for with unexpected twists and turns around every corner. Devoted to discovering the truth, the Russell family refuses to be crippled by fear. Quitting is not an option.’

Strong writing and a biting concept of human trafficking, the ability of a family to overcome odds, and the solid introduction of Christian beliefs make this a novel that should appeal to a wide audience who dote on attempting to solve mysteries before book’s end! This one is a challenge – in a very good way. Grady Harp, November 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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