The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 7, 2009

Book review: ‘Prayers for Sale’ features beautifully woven stories

‘Prayers for Sale’

By Sandra Dallas

Eighty-six year-old Hennie has been in Middle Swan, Colo., high in the mountains, for longer than just about anyone else in town. She came there about 70 years ago when an old school friend invited her to come out and meet a male friend. Hennie’s husband died in the Civil War and her young daughter had died in a tragic accident, so after some thought to her friend’s offer, Hennie moved.

Much to her delight, Jacob Comfort is just who she’s looking for and soon they marry. At 60, Jacob passes on, leaving Hennie a home and plenty to get her by for many years to come.

When Nit and Dick Spindle move to town, Hennie takes a shine to the 17-year old young bride and proceeds to introduce her to Middle Swan, the women in the quilting group and life in the mountains.

As author Sandra Dallas did in “The Persian Pickle Club,” stories are woven and sewn together as neatly and beautifully as the quilts Hennie makes. This is a well-written historical fiction novel that is perfect with a cup of tea (or coffee) and a good conversation with friends around a quilting frame or your kitchen table.

‘Killer Keepsakes’

By Jane K. Cleland

When one of Josie Prescott’s reliable and helpful employees fails to show up for work after vacation, Josie sets out to find out what has happened.

Gretchen has worked at Prescott’s Antiques and Appraisals for four years. Josie hired her more on gut instinct than traditional hiring practices. When Gretchen seemingly disappears on the day she was to return from her week-long vacation, Josie comes to realize how little she really does know about her employee and how little the rest of the staff knows about Gretchen’s life prior to coming to New Hampshire.

This is the fourth installment in the Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series. Cleland weaves lots of information on antique appraisals in between the sleuthing and the twists and turns of the story. Because this series is still relatively new, the reader does not have to be familiar with Josie and the other characters to follow along.

This is a good page-turning cozy to settle back in a comfy chair and escape in for a few hours.

‘Wrongful Death’

By Robert Dugoni

Having won a dozen cases in California before his marriage and move to Seattle, David Sloan continues to build his reputation as one of the best wrongful-death attorneys in the country with his latest win.

He is ready for his much-anticipated vacation in Cabo San Lucas with his wife and stepson when he is stopped by Beverly Ford on his way out of the courthouse. Sloan has been recommended to her as the one person who can get the answers she is looking for in the death of her husband, who died while serving in Iraq.

He is fairly certain this case cannot be won. James Ford died while serving his country and therefore his family cannot sue the government. Sloan agrees to look at the file Beverly obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) before leaving on his trip. In looking through the witness statements, something is off.

First, if the claim has been denied, why send the family the paperwork now? Second, witness statements are considered classified even under the FOIA, so why did were they given to Beverly? Finally, all four witness statements read almost word for word and it is known that no two witnesses ever report the same thing, let alone four.

In taking on the case, Sloan opens a can of worms someone does not want opened. One by one, the other men involved in the incident that killed James Ford are dying, Sloan’s family is being threatened and someone is out to kill him.

This is a fast-paced thriller that keeps the reader turning the pages wondering if James really died “incident to service” or not. Dugoni has done his research (as stated in the acknowledgments), creating a very believable story about the Iraq war, its affect on families and the government’s involvement.

Susan Wray is director of the Joplin Public Library.