Thursday 7 August 2014

The Vengeance Squad Goes To England by Sidney W. Frost

The Vengeance Squad helps one of its own when the bookmobile fund is stolen. Two years after the death of his fiancée, Chris McCowan begins to feel normal again. As normal as the situation allows. Sarah had told him to find a new love and be happy, but he never dreamed he would. That was before he fell in love with Angela. Did she feel the same about him? Perhaps he would soon find out. She had invited him to visit her at her home in Bath, England during his time off between semesters. He had his plane ticket before his fall teaching obligations were finished. Tex Thompson had worked part time at the library while attending college full time ever since he'd married Jane. Adding the Vengeance Squad's criminal investigative work on top of that left little time for her or the children. This time, Tex's wife had put her foot down. No more Vengeance Squad activities until he'd stayed home long enough for his children to get to know him again. And, she added, she expected some quality husband and wife time as well. This semester break would be different, Jane said, and Tex was looking forward to it. Chris and Tex were ready to spend more time with the ones they loved. But that was before they learned Liz Siedo, the third member of the group was the victim of a crime that could break her heart. Will Liz, the hugger, the cheerleader, the one who was always optimistic and always supportive, need their help? Will Chris and Tex abandon their plans to assist her? Will Liz allow the guys to break the law to rectify her mistakes?

The Guru's Review:

Something wrong with Liz? How can that be? Those who have followed Frost's novels that contain this loveable character will be shocked in the change in personality in Liz that the opening of this novel portrays. Frost has positioned this part of the plot at the beginning to draw the reader in to read more. Once this happens, your interest is piqued and like Chris and Tex, you want to know what is wrong with Liz! Great way to start a novel. Grabbed my attention immediately as I wanted to know what had happened to one of my newly formed friends from the previous novel, The Vengeance Squad.

From here on in, once it is revealed what Liz has gotten herself into, this novel takes off with The Vengeance Squad engaged to investigate and thwart the perpetrator's crime of fraud against Liz. The main part of this plot takes them to England in their search for Virgil Golden who has fleeced Liz's bank account of donor money she is saving for a new Book mobile.

I was pleasantly surprised how well I felt I was in England as the plot progressed. Frost has done his research both from being there and from other research in the locations he has included. In an interview with C. Wayne Dawson, he states,
The Vengeance Squad Goes to England includes many places in the UK where I have been....... although I write about places I’ve visited in person, I use Google to view the area I’m writing about to remind me what it looks like.

While working on The Vengeance Squad Goes to England, I was using Google to follow along a route in London when I saw red double-decker buses everywhere. That’s when I got the idea to make one into a bookmobile and put a photo on the book cover.
In the same book, I had the squad involved in a golf cart chase at the famous St. Andrews course. When she read a draft, my wife, a golfer, said they don’t use golf carts at that course. That led to more research and many changes, but I still got my chase in.
I have seen in photos, watched English TV and listened to my wife and her mother (who are from England) even though I have not been to England myself. This was one factor that kept me coming back for more. I also loved the banter between Angela and Chris over the English and American terms, that made me chuckle as I have had similar banter between my American friends with their terminology and our Australian terms as well. I have also had the same with my mother in law and wife with our terminology and theirs.

Frost uses this second novel to further develop the romance between Angela and Chris. I have not read much in the romance genre either Christian based or not, but I do like it when it is written by male authors. The only other male authors to include romance in their novels that I have read, are Ralph Smith in the Seal of the King and Joel C Rosenberg in his David Shirazi trilogy. They both do this very well and I feel Frost does it well too, especially highlighting the difficult emotions that Chris had to deal with in allowing himself to fall in love again in the two years since his fiance, Sarah, was murdered in the first novel. He also showed Angela having sensitivity in what this means for her as well. This issue was well balanced and made their romance all the more realistic and credible to this sub plot that started towards the end of The Vengeance Squad. In the same aforementioned interview, Frost states,
More importantly, it is about falling in love and remarrying after your wife dies. Or, fiancé, in the book.
Frost is using his personal experience here and, as I mentioned in my review of the first book, this adds credibility to this subplot and in this novel, it strengthens the plot structure tremendously. I loved the way it was not until the very end that you realised that despite the obstacles they both had to address, that there was going to be a "happy ending" and one that you want to happen as you see Chris working through his emotions of guilt, and learning to love again. Great way to end this novel! I would also like to see a third book in this series as I feel a lot of readers would want to see their marriage and another case thrown in for good measure. Maybe then Frost could consider completing this series! But would his readers allow this? Hmm, I think not!!

It was well planned for Frost to use this novel to introduce more of Tex's life in the form of his wife and to a lesser degree, his children, compared to Tex as a sole character in The Vengeance Squad. This makes Tex a more three dimensional character and Jane makes a very productive asset to the Squad. Having the plot more centered on Liz also adds depth to her character and makes her more three dimensional as well. Definitely allows the reader to be more endeared towards her. She is one very memorable character!

I felt that in this novel, it was a faster pace and the plot and its events kept me more engaged than the previous one. Frost's writing style and plot structure are smoother and concise. I loved the way the Squad did not find the search for Golden easy and had obstacles to overcome and sometimes not a very well thought out plan that discouraged them, but they did not give in. Added a deeper level of intrigue to the plot and made the character of Golden all that more elusive and crafty.

I chuckled at Frost's introduction of the drone, being Chris' idea. I thought that was a clever innovation and suited the nerdy image of Chris very well. Turns out that this drone was the star player at the end of the novel. Interesting that as I write this review, Frost submits a blog post called Drones Are In! about drones being used in fiction and non fiction more now and for fun and commercial uses. Very interesting blogpost. Interesting how Amazon is also developing this technology to deliver orders to their customers!

All in all, this is, like its predecessor, one fun and entertaining read, but also one that has a serious message about grieving and learning to love again God's way. I love Christian novels where the author sets out to entertain, but also educate. This in my opinion is a hallmark of what makes a satisfying Christian novel. Thanks Sidney Frost!

Highly Recommended