Burning Proof, by Janice Cantore
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Although I do not get the chance to read too many novels, at least compared to the nonfiction books I read, I do enjoy reading well-written Christian legal fiction  as well as Christian mystery novels , when I get the chance to add them to my usual material. This book is part of the author’s Cold Case Justice series, and as I am not familiar with the first novel in the series, it took a bit of time to get caught up to speed with the characters. Fortunately, the author has crafted in this nearly 400 page novel, which reads very smoothly, a story that is not too difficult to enter in at midstream for those readers who are not aware of the whole story. I do not doubt it would have been more enjoyable had I already read the first book, but as it is, the novel stands on its own well enough to be an enjoyable read for those who like seeing redemption and godly people in difficult experiences where divine providence is explicitly a concern. For some people, this sort of novel is likely to be very disturbing reading, for it deals with murders, betrayal, rape, PTSD, and other unpleasant matters.
In terms of its contents, the book consists of a variety of parallel plots woven around short chapters. At the heart of the story is the dynamic between two partners with strong romantic tension, lovely police detective Abby Hart and handsome widower private detective Luke Murphy, whose lives are interconnected by a series of murders involving a restaurant that their family members were involved in that has ties to a political campaign. Over the course of this novel the two of them, separately and together, deal with their own pasts, face death threats, and seek to bring justice to cases that have fallen through the cracks, all while maintaining their faith in the face of the evils of this present world. While their police and investigation work is going on, and while they research the cold cases that they are involved in, they deal with romantic tension that is thwarted by bad timing–for most of the novel, Abby is engaged to the decent but rather milquetoast devoted missionary Ethan, while towards the end of the novel Luke starts dating the lovely blogger Faye Fallon. This romantic tension adds layers of longing to the plot, and helps string out the drama that would indicate that these two characters belong together, which would in most novels of this kind be resolved in a single book.
Although this book was very enjoyable to read from a stylistic point of view, and very difficult to read on another level because it reminded me of my own traumatic life, the sort of trauma that the author dwells on at some length, there are a few parts of the novel that seem a bit too convenient. Too many parallel plots converge on one, with a hacker who also happens to be a rapist and serial murderer and simultaneously happens to be hired on a contract basis to tail the private investigators looking for him. Likewise, many readers will find it a bit too coincidental that a restaurant owner would find his business a hindrance to political ambitions. I happen to know personally, albeit very slightly, a politician who was a restaurant owner where I grew up before becoming active in Florida Republican politics, but I do not know if all readers will be able to see that as likely in a state like California. Likewise, Abby Hart is a bit too competent, enough so that she seems a bit of a Mary Sue at times. Obviously, she is meant not to be as competent when it comes to her personal life, but few people, even among police officers, are able to bust human trafficking rings in the Medford area of Southern Oregon while on leave from her job after shooting an armed vigilante trying to avenge his daughter’s death. One wonders if police and sheriff’s departments are as sensitive as other professionals about talented strangers muscling in on their turf and bringing trouble with them wherever we go. Some of us can certainly relate to that.
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