Book Review: The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

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The Howling Cliffs (Sara Mason Mysteries Book 2)The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

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.

View all my reviews

About Me
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.

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28 thoughts on “Book Review: The Howling Cliffs by Mary Deal

    The Cozy Pages said:
    January 17, 2019 at 7:11 AM

    This one sounds good too!!! Lol. I like the setting and elements of this mystery.

    Liked by 2 people

      Shalini said:
      January 17, 2019 at 7:12 AM

      Yayyy aren’t you the early bird in commenting?

      Liked by 2 people

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      January 17, 2019 at 7:19 AM

      Non cozy!!!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

        The Cozy Pages said:
        January 17, 2019 at 7:23 AM

        This is true… but still a good one. Lol. I have to read that ‘Lark’ book soon. I keep thinking about it.

        Liked by 2 people

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        January 17, 2019 at 7:29 AM

        Yes, you do… Maybe we could read the 2nd together… so you should hurry up! I’m 99% certain you will claim it’s your fave book ever. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        The Cozy Pages said:
        January 17, 2019 at 7:48 AM

        Oh Jay!!!! Lol. You’re killing me. Fine. I have one more author request for Jan and perhaps a beta read 🤔. So I’ll schedule Lark for first week of Feb…

        Liked by 2 people

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        January 17, 2019 at 7:50 AM

        It will make you happy… and then I’ll find one for February to push, too. I think maybe I’m contradicting myself in today’s messages. One per month? Is that fair? LOL

        Liked by 2 people

        The Cozy Pages said:
        January 17, 2019 at 7:53 AM

        Hahaha. You have a backlog!! Plus I now need to invest in the Lyn Calhoun series… or at least start it!

        Liked by 2 people

    Shalini said:
    January 17, 2019 at 7:14 AM

    All the books you read are expensive on Amazon. I am unable to put any of them in my wish list…
    Great review… I too want to visit howling cliffs eating an English bagel… Notice a theme happening? 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      January 17, 2019 at 7:20 AM

      I see it. This was free recently. Free on amazon frequently. Read any of the fiction she writes. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    Shalini said:
    January 17, 2019 at 7:14 AM

    Let’s go to the howling cliffs for our next venture

    Liked by 2 people

    Mary Deal said:
    January 17, 2019 at 9:07 AM

    Thank you for reviewing my book, James. Or should I make that plural = books. Again, this book contains a lot of moments that I have lived or lived through. A lot of people ask me to put them in one of my books. If you knew my life, you knew a lot of people I know are in there already. Or parts of them, or incidences, fictionalized, of course. Anyway, I am so happy that you read and review my stories. This is what keeps a writer going. And, by the way, the 3rd Story in the Sara Mason Mysteries is shaping up to be another doozy! And then I have two more planned, as the list grows. If anyone wants to read my stories, my publisher makes them available free from time to time. And thank you all!

    Liked by 1 person

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      January 17, 2019 at 11:40 AM

      I can’t wait for #3! Hurry up. 🙂 You’re always welcome. I wouldn’t read 6 if I didn’t truly enjoy them that much.

      Like

        Mary Deal said:
        January 17, 2019 at 12:05 PM

        I know that to be true, about continuing to read an author because you like their books, or not continuing on. I truly appreciate your love of my stories. Yes, I am hurrying on #3. I am my own worst roadblock. Have been writing scenes for books 4 and 5 because the scenes just keep pouring out of my mind. None of it fits with th current book #3, so all I can do is just keep tapping the keys as fast as my fingers can go before they wear down to nubs.

        Liked by 1 person

        James J. Cudney IV responded:
        January 17, 2019 at 12:14 PM

        It’ll be awesome, I’m sure. 🙂

        Like

    Ice_Dragoness (@HauntedReading) said:
    January 17, 2019 at 10:48 AM

    Incredibly excellent review! This is now a must-read (I would have wanted to read just for the title and/or the cover art, but your review cemented that!)

    Like

      James J. Cudney IV responded:
      January 17, 2019 at 11:38 AM

      Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Deal’s a fantastic author and always creates awesome covers.

      Like

    Rae Longest said:
    January 18, 2019 at 8:17 PM

    Great review, J.

    Liked by 1 person

    lghiggins said:
    January 19, 2019 at 1:38 PM

    This sounds like a great read with lots of setting and character work!

    Liked by 1 person

    Lelia T said:
    January 19, 2019 at 7:48 PM

    Reblogged this on Buried Under Books and commented:
    Even with all my background in books, I’ve never come across this author before and I think I need to check her out, thanks to Jay’s review 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    carhicks said:
    January 25, 2019 at 9:31 PM

    Another amazing and positive review of a Mary Deal book. I can tell you really enjoy her stuff as you are anxiously awaiting the next one. I have so many on my TBR right now, but you keep tempting with her books. Maybe I will give in on the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

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