Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Thicker Than Water by Maggie Shayne

Thicker Than Water - Maggie Shayne

As a seventeen-year-old runaway, Jewel Jordan, along with her friend Lizzie, found sanctuary with a group known as the Young Believers, led by Mordecai Young. Although the experience started out favourable, it slowly became a nightmare for the girls- one which they hoped to escape from as soon as they were able.
But then a fiery attack by government forces extinguished the cult, along with the lives of many of the compounds’ residents. For the survivors, the frightening ordeal appeared to be finally over, and, with the thousands of dollars of cash they managed to escape with, they were free to start over afresh.

Sixteen years later, Jewel has reinvented herself as Julie Jones and has become a successful news anchor, living in Syracuse with her teenage daughter Dawn.
But her peaceful life is shattered when a man named Harry begins blackmailing her, threatening to tell the world about her secret past. With no choice but to give in to his cash demands, Julie is soon worried that Harry isn’t the only person who knows the secrets that could destroy her.
This fear is heightened when Harry is found dead in his hotel room, and the murder weapon- a kitchen knife belonging to Julie- is found planted at her home. Someone is trying to frame her for Harry’s murder, and the worst thing is, she has no idea who it could be, or why they are doing it.
With the help of her journalism nemesis, and unlikely alley, Sean MacKenzie, Julie is determined to find the real murderer, especially when circumstances see her daughter put into danger.
Sean, an investigative journalist who is renowned for covering the worst that humanity has to offer, is just as determined to help, although he initially finds himself torn between wanting to protect Julie and wanting to expose her.
With Dawn’s life on the line and a vengeful killer on the loose, Julie will have to relive some of the horrors of her life in the Young Believers compound, if she is to uncover the truth and save her beloved daughter from an uncertain fate.

What I gained from reading this book:
This novel begins in the Young Believers compound- controlled by ‘Reverend’ Mordecai Young- and brings into focus the issues of cults and alternative sects, and the dangerous factors often associated with them. While I am unsure as to just how many cults exist in the world today, I would not be surprised if many of them are run in a similar fashion to the one that is depicted by the author in this novel. [Note: I know this is a massive generalisation, but I am yet to hear of a cult or sect that is completely innocent of wrongdoing]. Seen as a ‘safe haven’ for young runaways, compounds such as this are known for drugging their residents and brainwashing them into believing that the outside world is the enemy. They are often told that the only place of respite is with the cult and its leader, and are often driven to become obsessive about protecting their haven.
Even though the Young Believers of the novel are fictional, readers are more likely to be aware of the dangers of such places after reading this story and experiencing what Julie, Dawn and the others go through because of it.

The verbal sparring between Julie Jones and Sean MacKenzie, and their obvious sexual tension, provides light relief from the more serious aspects of the novel. Speaking of which, the originality of the cult storyline, and the subsequent drama surrounding Julie after sixteen years, sets the novel apart from others of the same genre.

Without trying to give too much of the storyline away, I have to question the way that some of the characters managed to survive the raid on the compound, sixteen years earlier. I know that the story can’t happen without them, but it does make the storyline seem less credible.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Genre: Thriller

Recommended for: People who enjoy reading Maggie Shayne’s novels.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:

Thicker Than Water

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