“Dark Deception” by Nancy Mehl

Cover of titular book, featuring a blonde woman looking out at a river and a boat, her hand on a rail; she's wearing a floral sundress with a blue base color and red flowers; the physical cover itself is embossedBook: “Dark Deception” by Nancy Mehl
Series: Defenders of Justice #2
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Genres: Christian Fiction, Romantic Suspense
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Rating: 2/5⭐
Source: Bethany House (received for free in exchange for an honest review)
Goodreads

Kate O’Brien has been leading a quiet life in small-town Shelter Cove, Arkansas, for the past four years when her past suddenly comes roaring back to life. Four years ago, she and her twin sister were attacked by an elusive serial killer. Only Kate survived, and it was her drawing of the attacker—along with some last-minute evidence—that convicted the suspect.She’s been in witness protection ever since, but new evidence suggests the convicted man isn’t the murderer and she’s been subpoenaed to testify in the new trial. Nervous about the risk, she’ll only agree if the same marshal who protected her during the original trial escorts her to St. Louis.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Tony DeLuca accepts the assignment to bring Kate to the trial, remembering how her strength impressed him. While in Shelter Cove, however, he gets a call from his chief, advising them to stay in Shelter Cove until a new development in the case can be straightened out. But when Kate’s safety is threatened, Tony must race against the clock to keep her alive and put this ugly case to rest before anyone else gets killed.

I have mixed feelings about this book, which originate in my issues with it, so I’m going to focus more on those—because I do love a murder mystery tremendously, but the issues I took with the book put a sour taste in my mouth and held it back from living up to its potential.

It’s preachy.

I’m chill with books touching on faith, but I do not respect books holding Christians up on pedestals as the best people, and I do not enjoy reading lectures in fiction unless they help progress the story—that’s the whole reason anything explained in utmost depth should ever be included in a story, otherwise it’s redundant and wastes everyone’s time, not to mention the space the author could’ve used to include pertinent information.

To sum it up—and if this is inaccurate, it’s how I feel:

The author’s opinions override those of the characters’, from suicide to PTSD.

Suicide

I did not appreciate the idea that having God in your life means all problems disappear and no reason for suicide exists. It’s not only passive-aggressive as hell and problematic times a million, but it’s unrealistic.

If you do not understand why someone would ever be suicidal, don’t write about it unless you’ve done numerous research and consulted with people who have been in such a position. There’s a difference between putting your opinion into a story and imposing your beliefs onto the reader. Suicide can be discussed without turning it into an activist mission.

The way it was handled in Dark Deception is distasteful and portrays ignorance.

And even beyond my personal experience with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, I knew someone who was fighting a battle regardless of his Christian faith.

Suicide is not something to be romanticized or used for a personal agenda toward converting people to Christianity. It’s not a thing to be toyed with.

PTSD

A main character, Tony, tells protagonist Kate—not verbatim—she needs to acknowledge what happened or else God will intervene and put her in a similar situation wherein she has to embrace her past or die.

Uh…that’s not how PTSD works?! That’s romanticizing and reinforcing stigmatization of a serious disorder to drive a plot for a personal agenda to make a point about a religion.

I don’t know how else to put this into words, so here goes: Kate is Bella, Tony is Edward; PTSD is the emotional abuse Bella endured when Edward—um, uh—was being an abuser. Tony’s as manipulative as Edward, and I don’t see how similarities between Dark Deception and The Twilight Saga could be construed any other way.

Kate totally fails the Bechdel test.

She only talks to another woman once. Afterward, it’s always a man—and she only thinks about Tony, save the under-ten instances wherein she thinks about her late twin sister, Kelly.

And she’s weak; she lacks agency. She’s the weakest, most helpless damsel in distress I have ever seen, Tony being the only one who can save her. Because they’re in potential unrequited, “inappropriate” love with each other—he’s a US Deputy Marshal and seven years older than her, which—I mean, I guess he’s unfamiliar with the half-your-age-plus-seven rule.

Speaking of the romance…

I don’t know how they fell in love.

The story just starts with them already loving each other and having the creepiest-ever attachment to each other, but forgoes anything beyond general “she was in love with him” and “he loved her and couldn’t stop thinking about each other”. Rescue romances can be cute when developed OK, but I don’t wanna be told about two people who love each other—I wanna feel it for myself. Prove to me why and how they love each other.

I don’t want the White Knight Syndrome or a savior complex; they remind me too much of Stockholm Syndrome, which can’t be healthy for anyone.

Imposing curiosity

You know how when someone asks you a lot of questions? Like, when they wanna raise your curiosity? And they keep asking you questions, as if it builds interest? But—and not always—they ask questions that seem super obvious, and it takes everything you have to not scream at them, “JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU’RE GETTING AT ALREADY!” because they probz could have been done explaining it already?

Yes—that.

Though, I guess it’s better than the narrator telling me, “Obviously, he…” and, “Obviously, it…” and, “Obviously, she…” and, “Obviously, there…” (I mean, obviously.)

Rating: 2/5 stars

I rated this book 2/5 stars because

  • it has potential.
  • issues.
  • other lectures—high school, for example: ’twas lectured through a character (third-person POV, via the narrator) that high school doesn’t determine what will happen for the rest of one’s life, but I disagree. I noticed the author is not overtly young, which led me to infer she isn’t totally in touch with what happens in high school these days, if not for the stereotypical geek-is-successful, popular-cheerleader-marries-popular-football-player-and-lives-unhappily. I felt like I was reading 30 minutes’ with of the plot of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
  • Christians were touted to be better superior and free of flaws.

I was excited to read this book, because I thought, “A Christian murder mystery?! Awesome!” It’s why I requested this one out of all the others; I was told it works as a standalone novel, despite being in a series.

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