My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mary Deal has become one of those authors whose books always deliver strong story, memorable characters, and beautiful narrative that’s easy to read and highly engaging. The Howling Cliffs, the second book in her ‘Sara Mason Mysteries’ series is the sixth book I’ve read in the last two years from her growing list of works. Between the title and the cover, it’s no wonder I loved the book, but I’ve also been reading several books with tropical locations such as Hawaii in the last few weeks. I’ve apparently got a theme going…
Sara has had a hard life, but she is a survivor and will never back away from a challenge. Months after solving a major crime involving a serial killer in the last book, she heads back to Vietnam to search for MIA heroes for two close friends: Esmerelda, a widow whose husband was murdered in the first book, and Huxley, Sara’s potential future husband soon. Esmerelda’s daughter never returned from her medical mission. Huxley’s brother, a strong leader of his group, also disappeared. Both are surely gone, killed in action during the awful Vietnam War from decades earlier. After finding a few scattered remains, the crew heads back to California (and other places) to see if they can find a DNA match. Sara returns to Hawaii where she’s renovating a house for travelers to stay when going back and forth on missions to Vietnam. She’s also visiting old and new friends and recuperating from a tough few years. Only it’s gonna get worse.
Some neighbors welcome her. Some do not. She’s an outsider, a haole, not of Hawaii’n birth. But it’s one neighbor, an angry and distant young man who lost his sister to a predator ~12 years ago when she was a child, whom attracts Sara’s focus. She wants to solve the cold case, and in doing so, digs up several secrets and lots of dirt somebody wants to remain buried. Through a series of near-death experiences, Sara explores her neighboring town’s beautiful landscape, researches and investigates the case, and tries to understand what makes the weird noise coming from the nearby cliffs. The Howling Cliffs is part-mystery, part-chronicle of life suspense. We follow Sara through several key changes in her life as she decides what she wants to do next. She’s a strong female lead with solid intuition and a zest for helping others. Admirable on many levels, she’s also forgetful about protecting herself. We see her deal with a little bit of pain and remorse, but also her desire (and need) to find new friends, like her neighbor who helps in the search for the child killer from twelve years earlier.
Deal’s novels handle complex, emotional experiences and tragedies while keeping a tight grip on the plot. We easily bounce from the main mystery to all the sub-plots that weave throughout the book, knowing it will come together, and thirsting for what’s the surprise waiting for us in the end. The author’s own life experience and knowledge of various remote parts of the world make the dialog, setting, and descriptions not only real but vivid and lively. You believe you’re trapped in a jungle with snakes and danger. You think the mudslide has trapped you in its grip. You enjoy the entire ride and feel satisfied with the ending. I’m really excited that she’s writing a third book in this series, which will have a takeoff from a plot in this book. I love when an author keeps those connections, and I’ll be the first in line to get a copy when it’s released. Thanks for another winner, Mary Deal.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.