Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Susan Meissner's Widows and Orphans ~ Reviewed

Widows and Orphans
By Susan Meissner
Published by Harvest House Publishers
ISBN-10: 0736919147

At first, attorney Rachel Flynn isn't too upset with her mother's phone call. After all, this isn't the first time she's called Rachel regarding her younger brother, Joshua. He has dedicated his life to helping those in need, particularly widows and orphans. Arrest records in four Minnesota counties proves he won't hesitate to break the law to right a perceived wrong.

But when her mother chokes out that he's confessed to murder, Rachel's world tilts on its axis. She leaves Manhattan with Trace, her illustrator husband, and their baby daughter, McKenna, to return home to St. Paul, Minnesota. Deep down, Rachel knows there's no way Joshua has committed the crime he's confessed to. But he refuses to change his plea or to let Rachel represent him. Convinced Josh is taking the fall for someone else, she decides to investigate the case on her own.

She has a reluctant ally in the lead investigator, Sgt. Will Pendleton. He has his own doubts about Joshua's story, but he can't ignore Josh's confession. Sgt. Pendleton gets permission for Rachel to read the reports and visit the crime scene. As she walks around the damp basement of the Hmong grocery, she realizes the crime couldn't have happened the way Josh said. But critical pieces of evidence are also missing, and it turns into a race against time to prevent her brother from making a terrible mistake.

She enlists the help of Trace and several of his artist friends. Their sketches, based on her descriptions, move her further along in her investigation. But gaps remain. Fig, her husband's eccentric friend (and one of the best characters in the book) draws another sketch, which makes no sense to anyone involved, but may hold the key to what really happened in the basement.

Widows and Orphans is the first book in the Rachel Flynn mysteries. Susan Meissner has crafted a novel of unique characters and a plot that isn't easy to figure out. The ending is a twist, but fits in with the plot and the actions of the characters.

Cheryl Russell

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