Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Write-Up: Fatal Frost, by Nancy Mehl

Nancy Mehl.  Fatal Frost.  Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.  See here to buy the book.

Fatal Frost is the first book of the “Defenders of Justice” series.  In this novel, Mercy Brennan is a U.S. Marshall.  After Mercy is shot, her estranged father, Nick, comes back into her life.  Nick also was a U.S. Marshall.  The two of them have lunch together.  Nick apologizes for his absence from her life since her childhood, and the two of them joke about Mercy’s therapy, and the therapy that many cops have to receive after traumatic experiences: how the therapist is hesitant to release Mercy back into duty if Mercy says she feels all right, but is willing to release her if Mercy says she is traumatized.

Meanwhile, there are the gangs.  There is a local gang leader, Darius, and the larger, more powerful Vargas gang, which is recruiting Darius for a task.  They are all launching a plot: their plan is to release a doctored video portraying excessive police force, use that video to instigate a riot, and take advantage of the mayhem from that riot to enrich themselves.  But there is a problem: the video is out there somewhere, but it has not yet been doctored to make the cop look guilty!  Actually, the video shows who really shot that person in the car.  That somewhat undermines gangs’ plan, so they want to find that video.

Another character in this novel is Tally, who is Mercy’s partner in the force.  Tally is a fatherly, African-American gentleman.  Tally and his wife, Annie, are like mentors to Mercy.  There is also Mark, who is a U.S. Marshall.  Mark was romantically involved with Mercy, but they broke up after Mark became a Christian.  Mark still has feelings for Mercy, but he laments that Mercy wears a thick emotional shield.  As Mercy deals with her emotional wounds, she remains closed to embracing the Christian faith.

You will have to read the book to see how all these details intersect in the plot!  A key plot-element is that Mark, Tally, and Mercy get trapped in a remote cabin during an ice storm, and the gangs are coming after them!

This book was an enjoyable read.  Those who enjoy cop-shows may appreciate this book, which is like an episode of a cop-show, albeit with a Christian spin.  The book provides background information that allows readers to know the characters better.  The characters deal with their temptations and struggles, and there is empathy even towards those who make poor choices.  The novel’s prose is simple, and yet there is an elegance to it.

In terms of the book’s depiction of religion, Mark seems to embrace a Joel Osteenish sort of Christianity.  His pastor interprets Christian concepts in light of Mark’s destiny: Mark should not be unequally yoked with Mercy because that may hinder him from his Christian destiny; Mark should accept God’s forgiveness for sleeping with Mercy because his past sin need not shatter his destiny.  Mark also feels better about himself after becoming a Christian.  Some Christian readers may have problems with this depiction of Christianity, thinking that it avoids key themes such as sin and Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  Personally, I appreciated the book’s practical take on forgiveness.  There were also other religious features of the book that I liked, as well: how Mark and Tally did not try to shove religion down Mercy’s throat but simply lived authentic human lives, as Christians.

The book’s interaction with the issue of police brutality was somewhat of a turn-off to me.  I, for one, rejoice that people’s phones are capturing incidents of police brutality and releasing them to the public, so that rogue cops can finally be held accountable for their behavior rather than covering for each other.  I see that as justice.  This book perhaps would have been better had it acknowledged as legitimate the concerns of those who are victims of police brutality.

That said, this is still a good book, and, time permitting, I may read more Nancy Mehl novels in the future.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest!

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