Before I Wake by Dee Henderson

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FBI agent, Rae Gabriella, needs a career change. Her last undercover investigation ended disastrously, shaking her confidence in herself and in God. Moving to small-town Illinois, Rae joins her ex-boyfriend, Bruce, in his business as a private investigator, hoping the slower pace of life will provide the shelter and healing she needs. However, a major strike at the town's tile plant and the murder of an out-of-town reporter give Rae, Bruce and Sheriff Nathan Justice a more dangerous and perplexing challenge than any of them expect.

This is a great plot. It started a little slow, but I was hooked by chapter two, and shortly thereafter the suspense kept the book glued to my hands. I couldn't wait to know what clues (or bodies) would turn up next. Dee Henderson also opened my eyes to the politics of labour negotiations, the cutthroat business of illicit drugs, and the thankless job of fighting crime. I was a fascinated student from beginning to end.

They say conflict keeps a story moving, but it was Rae, Bruce and Nathan's gentle friendships, with relaxed dialogue and realistically-paced personal growth, that drew me in. Dee fashioned the characters as normal people with challenging relationships, troubled pasts, and tough questions about God, making the story reminiscent of real life without feeling mundane.

Some of the book's spiritual questions are left open, allowing readers to pursue their own answers about God's sovereignty in the midst of tragic circumstances. Some questions are too complex to ask and answer in a single book, and I'm grateful when Christian fiction acknowledges this.

The only point on which I'm left wanting is the romantic tension between Rae and the two men. Attraction is clearly alluded to throughout the novel, but the characters seem slightly too passive and the story-telling feels too ambiguous on this dimension. I also wonder why Nathan's parents aren't more involved in the conflict between him and his grandfather, but that's a minor point. Overall, I felt inspired by the characters' relationships.

Some people like ratings, so I'll give Before I Wake a solid 4 out of 5, and I gladly recommend it.

Note: This review is not part of a blog review program.