Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: The Mountains Bow Down

Well, this was a disppointment!  I'd only give this one 2 stars, maybe 3 if I was feeling extra-generous.

The Mountains Bow Down: A Raleigh Harmon Novel is the first Raleigh Harmon book I've read (seems there are three before this one). So what I have to say may not be true if you've read the previous books.

Raleigh Harmon is an FBI agent who goes up to Alaska on a cruise with her mom, aunt and Claire the Clairvoyant on "vacation" only to get caught up in a suicide/murder and major gem theft. She is helped by Jack Stephanson, a man she worked with earlier when she was working in the Seattle FBI office. An added twist (or complication) is the fact that she is now back to working in the Richmond FBI office, newly engaged to a Southern aristocrat and her widowed mother is bordering on having a nervous breakdown.  This would probably make better sense if you'd read the earlier books ... but it SHOULD stand-alone and not be quite so confusing as this one is.

That's just the synopsis of the plot affecting Raleigh.  This doesn't include the sub-plots of ship-board crimes (including a rather graphic description of Turkish ship-workers who are also pornography-film makers), narcissistic Hollywood types and their issues and .... well, sex drugs and rock and roll pretty much sums it up. See what I think it's a bit convoluted?

That all said, the primary mystery is a very good mystery although I don't think the author, Sibella Giorello, plays fair in that the stolen rocks are a very rare, found-only-in-California, mineral that even Raleigh (who is supposed to be a geologist) has never seen before. The reader doesn't understand the point of the rocks as the key until right near the end ...

I also don't much care for Raleigh Harmon's character -- she is self-centered, a work-aholic, who says she loves her mentally ill mother but doesn't drop everything to help her, being caught up in the case instead. She lies to "protect" her mom but actually just makes it all worse.  She is engaged to an old sweetheart who she ignores when he repeatedly calls her and when she does finally talk to him is angry that he's partying with old school friends. She's supposed to be a "forensic geologist" and yet she spends more time being just a detective ... why have her constantly reminding other characters about her "geology education". A further irritating character-flaw with Raleigh is that she is supposed to be so smart and such a great agent and yet is very cynical and sarcastic and rude to people she's trying to get to help her.  Her former boss in the Seattle office is treated almost as a buffoon and yet he does everything he can to help her.

The other characters include Aunt Charlotte who is quite odd and hard to understand while her friend Claire the Clairvoyant is truly over-the-top weird but then she ends up helping Raleigh set up the bad guys. Very strange.  The character of special agent Stephanson is much better drawn and believable. And I love the character of the Dutch ship's captain, Geert! The victim's family and friends are not very sympathetic and the other cruise customers are ridiculed throughout the nove.

I also have to say that this particular book, although supposedly Christian fiction, is not that at all. The reference to Christianity and organized religion are all snide slurs including comments from the ship's chaplain of "well, it's ok that the Cross was ripped off the wall ... it's such a bummer for people" or Aunt Charlotte's new ageiness that has her saying that she used to be like Raleigh's mother until she stopped buying into the whole Episcopal thing. I don't know how the other Raleigh Harmon books read .. but this one is not a winner!

Disclaimer: I received this book at part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program. The critique above is my honest reaction to this work of fiction.


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