Saturday, January 22, 2022

Carl Brookins' Latest Novel, Sins of Edom, Grabbed me on First Page!


As I starting reading the first page of the latest book by Carl Brookins, I found myself entering into a space where I have often gone. Even as one of the main characters studied the way the sanctuary was presented, I could hear the soft music playing in the background. Perhaps someone was practicing or perhaps quiet meditative hymns were played in the church at all times. In any event words written by Brookins took on a life that was common for me...

ALAN Lockem stood in the back of the sanctuary of the church, leaning against the wall. His arms were crossed. He hadn't been in that church since his baptism seventy-plus years earlier. The sanctuary wasn't large; it held maybe 250 worshippers on a busy Sunday. 

He stared at the pulpit, a simple lectern of finely crafted and polished white oak. It was draped with a banner in royal blue that carried a gold representation of the traditional Protestant Christian church. Behind the pulpit was the choir loft, a series of hand-made wooden chairs in a box. Against the back wall, behind the pulpit stood the altar. 

In this church, it was a well-designed table that could be moved about the elevated platform as appropriate for different celebrations and services. The elevated platform or stage stretched across the breadth of the space, four wooden steps above the floor of the sanctuary with its fixed rows of wooden pews. Above the altar, against the wall of the building the arrangement of organ pipes, both real and false, soared in a precise arrangement of several rows, some extending to the ceiling thirty feet overhead.

As bespoke the modern church, the vaulted wood-sheathed ceiling that reached high overhead was festooned with high intensity lights, speakers, and a network of black connecting wires. Two walls carried multiple well-crafted stained glass windows that displayed fragments of important Christian messages from the Bible.

Between the pews and the steps to the altar, a long strip of bright yellow plastic tape hung from the railings on each side of the space and displayed a different message repeated in black block type.



A church setting is often used for many fictional novels in the Christian faith. Perhaps it is to remind us that, even in the church, participants can commit sins of the flesh. Indeed, once Alan had studied the "scene of the crime," he went on to where the sin of murder had occurred. Was he surprised that one of the victims was the pastor of the church? And who and why was the young woman there in the church with him? Perhaps a natural assumption was that the two individuals had been involved in an affair. That was, of course, one of the options that Alan Lockem and his partner in more ways than one, Marjorie Kane would explore. 

Backgrounds of both of these main characters had brought them together for many things, one of which, by word of mouth, they would be asked to "investigate" while the police officers were also doing their jobs. From the readers' standpoint, inserting civilian investigators into the plot allows  a more in-depth analysis and discussion to be considered and shared by the main characters who are able to go beyond the normal procedures required by law. This is standard for a cozy but the characters in this novel, make this book several steps above that genre, given the wealth of professional experience provided by the investigators.

Lockem was the first one to enter the scene and envision what might have been happening at the time of the double deaths. Being thorough, however, only brought to light a damaged area in one of the organ pipes behind the pulpit. After taking considerable time to gain significant recall of the scene for the future, Alan went out to talk with the Church Secretary. And it was there that Lockem began to experience...something... Later, research found that perhaps it involved a city of ancient Edom...

Lockem looked up from his notebook and shrugged. "I don't know, but ever since I sat down an odd feeling has been growing. I can't define it, just a vague unrest, I guess."

Action nodded. "It's the painting." She gestured over her shoulder at the huge oil hanging on the wall. "Others have had a similar reaction. Pastor Elliot had the picture returned to this original location. Maybe it is the size, perhaps it is the subject, such very early Christians, but several people over the years have had reactions to being in the office with it. It is supposed to have been painted by Talegiease. He was a friar...

Murder motive possibly," agreed Marjorie. "There's controversy over ownership of some of the painter's works. You know, the usual. Passing through family hands for generations. gifts to friends and lovers, donations to a church. Even thefts. Now let me tell you about Edom...
Instead of a routine murder mystery which needed to be solved, readers are almost immediately assaulted with the potential for historical treasure hunting...or maybe, something totally different. When Lockem meets members of a bikers' club, and the name of the individual he first met was Obadiah...I was so sure I could see where this was going...

Brookins doesn't give us the thrill of the hunt, a la Indiana Jones, though. This mystery is to be solved through extensive research, evaluating options, and a continued gathering and exploration of the necessary information which would lead, hopefully, to helping to solve the murders. And readers are privy to explore and consider along with Alan and Marjorie, oftentimes during a meal or relaxing afterward, exploring what is the latest information and assigning tasks to move their investigation further. I chuckled at the light banter between the two individuals who have been together so long that they come to think alike to a great extent, while only learning "just enough" to start me thinking again, but not enough to move ahead of what the author was wanting us to know at that point in his book... A thoroughly enjoyable experience... even if a bit frustrating given the speed of television shows during which a case is solved in an hour or less!

I must admit that, given the daily news on the cult-like followers who attacked our Capitol, I had a twinge about what might be coming. However, I knew anything was possible but that the author would handle it in an intelligent manner. One of the things I like most about the book is that the main
characters are retired professionals who continue to be involved even in their declining years. I have interacted with the writer online and found him to be a concerned citizens of America, as well as having an avid involvement in the Arts, sharing about his experiences often about this symphony or another program. It was easy for this reader to place him into the main character's role and I found getting to know him and his family life was heartwarming. Much like another favorite writer of mine Aaron Lazar, who often sets his mysteries in his home environment where he's constantly tending his garden, dealing with children... Both write not quite "cozy" but similar in style, just with more complex,  and often extraordinary, in the type of plot created. I enjoy both types, of an avid fan of all things mysterious...

What type of reality faces Alan and Marjorie as they dig further into two murders of people who seemingly have no or little involvement, a painting that could be worth millions...and a biker club with members with Biblical names... Wow! If you aren't interested at this point...forget about it...But if you enjoy watching investigators work to find the truth and find criminals, using intelligence and any forensics sciences available, then I highly recommend this book! Me, I'm going out to check the other books by this author which features the same retired professionals--still actively involved in improving the world around them!


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