Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sticks & Stones book review

As the title suggests, Susan Meissner tackles the subject of bullying in her second Rachael Flynn mystery.

Rachael, now working at the Ramsey County attorney’s office in Minnesota, receives a disturbing, unsigned letter:

“They’re going to find a body at the River Terrace construction site. He deserved what he got, but it wasn’t supposed to happen. It was an accident.”

The body turns out to be that of a fifteen-year-old boy, long presumed to have run away; he’d been buried for over twenty years. Initial research confirms that he had been a neighborhood bully, terrorizing all the children on his street, unstoppable by adults, school, or police.

Rachael and detective Will Pendleton begin to search for answers: how the bully died, and for the person who wrote the letter.

Rachael has a strong sense that the writer of the letter is among those whom the bully tormented on the street where his body was discovered. One by one, Will and Rachael interview the now-adult victims, and the nagging sense Rachael has about an old abandoned house won’t leave her alone.

Sticks & Stones takes place only a few months after Widows & Orphans ends. Trace and Rachael, with baby McKenna, have moved to the loft apartment they purchases at the end of the first book.

However, even though this book is the second in the series, it is not imperative that one reads Widows & Orphans first. Sticks & Stones gives enough background that new readers will not be lost for not having read it.

Rachael remains one of my favorite literary heroines. She is a good woman placed in impossible situations, trying to get a grip on her new spiritual gift. Trying, as we all are, to make sense of life, balancing work and family and a growing desire to fulfill God’s purpose for her life.

Trace and Fig’s artist friends add a helping artistic hand with the investigation, just as in the first book—and their artistic visions help Rachael immeasurably.

Sticks & Stones is an excellent follow-up to Widows & Orphans. Book three, Days & Hours, is scheduled for a September 2007 publication.

Susan Meissner continues to tackle the unpleasant issues of life in the 21st century with very human characters and a very real sense of God's presence.

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