5 stars (out of 5)
No doubt about it: Books are expensive. Even discounted versions of books for ebook readers like my Kindle Fire can get very costly when you read as many books as I do. That's why I've signed up at websites that offer free and low-cost choices, like BookBub.com, BookGorilla.com, or Lendle.com (which are then downloaded from Amazon.com).
More often than not, the selections are from lesser-known writers, and a number of the free offerings don't cost more than three or four bucks to begin with - sometimes for good reason. So as I've said before, it's always a good idea to check customer reviews before you hit the download button (reviews with ratings of 3 stars and below get most of my attention, because I'm more interested in why someone didn't like the book than reading gushing comments.
Way more often than not, I've done well with my selections. And when I find a real gem, I want to tell the world. This one, a winner of a Florida Book Award (one of two for author Michael Lister), is one of those gems. For the record, the annual Florida Book Awards, which honors the best work of Florida authors, is coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries and co-sponsored by several other relatively impressive organizations. Medalists in nine categories are announced each February.
It was that award, in fact, that clinched the deal for me; at the time, this book had only nine reviews, mostly 5 stars - and even I have enough family and friends who would gladly award my book top honors in exchange for a six-pack of beer. Of course, the description didn't hurt; this is the fifth book in a series featuring prison chaplain and former cop John Jordan. Also for the record, Lister was named the youngest chaplain within the Florida Department of Corrections back in the early 1990s and served as a chaplain at correctional facilities for nearly a decade, so I figure he's got a good handle on that end of things.
I'm always a bit leery, though, of not starting with the first in a series; will I be able to follow what's going on, and will the book stand alone? I'm happy to say yes to both those issues, and even happier to report that I plan to get my hands on the rest in the series as fast as I can.
Here, Jordan has come to retreat center St. Ann's Abbey in the Florida Panhandle to shore up his own emotions after a nasty previous case (which I assume happened in the previous book). It doesn't take long for strange things to happen - first the apparent murder of a young boy, followed by the ghastly death of a young woman who had been undergoing an exorcism at the hands of an elderly priest who is one of the Abbey's founders. When he becomes the prime suspect, one of the nuns asks Jordan, who is here to get counseling himself and is reluctant to get involved, to well, get involved.
There's no shortage of suspects as Jordan - who is Protestant, by the way - begins his investigation, including the chief of police, an attorney who represents a large corporation intent on getting the land on which the Abbey is located and a beautiful young novelist (you really didn't think there would be no potential love interest, did you)? Untangling the ties that bind all these folks together and finding the culprit doesn't do much to drive out Jordan's personal demons, but the process sure is a treat for readers.
Blood Sacrifice by Michael Lister (Pulpwood Press August 2012); 271 pp.