Monday 5 September 2022

Novel Review and Redemptive Fiction Award: Mapped Out Murders by Mary C. Findley

 I reviewed this novel on 29/04/19 on another blog, now defunct. 

Mapped Out Murders

Sarah Groben is an LAPD Homicide detective and a pastor’s wife. She’s got six murders she wants to solve by Sunday. Members of a fledgling group for 10-40 window transplants seeking Christianity are being killed. A Muslim charity interested in better relations with Americans seems to be connected by the death of a former financial manager. Family members of the victims might also end up in the crosshairs if Sarah is right about a “Persecutor for Hire.”

Sarah’s partner is down with the flu and her husband Don seems like a tailor-made substitute with his knowledge of Middle Eastern languages and cultures. But the case keeps getting more complicated by the minute, and Sarah and Don might not be able to crack it before the killing starts again.

Perspective by Peter:

I volunteered to review this over Easter when Mary stated via Facebook she had review copies available. I am glad I did as this new novel is an exciting and refreshing entry into Christian fiction, police procedural, and women sleuth genres.

I wondered what inspired Findley to write this novel as there were two things that I found intriguing and unique. One, what influenced Sarah's attitude toward not working with a male Police Officer and I wondered where Findley would take this in the novel. Two, the religious background to these types of murders involving Christians and Muslims is not in any novel I have read or heard of. So where did this come from? Then I remembered I first heard about this novel from a post on Findley's Facebook page or group. I decided to investigate further and found this on her website,  

I got the idea for this story from two recent events: One is the scorn endured by Vice President Mike Pence over his refusal to be alone with a woman not his wife, and the #MeToo Movement. I wondered what would happen if a woman took the same stand against being in potentially compromising situations with men. The other inspiration was a recent Voice of the Martyrs conference, where an Iranian man told the story of multiple Christian leaders in Iran, including his father, being murdered and left with a paper in each pocket with an address where another body could be found.

Findley has written an absorbing character-driven novel that is not bogged down in the police procedural format that some other authors fall prey to. I really enjoyed this novel due to this approach. The police procedures are there and they need to be but instead of this being the dominant structure of the novel and how it is solved, these take a lesser role but still provide a firm foundation for how Sarah and her pastor husband team together to solve this crime. 

Doing it this way means that the reason for this approach is upfront. It allows you to concentrate on Sarah and Don building a relationship with the Muslim family members of the murdered victims. This is the focus of the novel. It definitely shows how to be a Christian witness to the Muslim community without any judgment, criticism or self-righteousness towards them. This is where this novel is a breath of fresh air. However, I was not expecting Findley to depict the response from the Muslim family members to be as positive, responsive, and respectful towards Sarah and Don being Christians. Now here is my dilemma. I have not had much interaction with Muslims but I understand that some of their behaviours towards Christians are ones that are the opposite of Mary's depiction and/or they have an arrogant refusal to have anything to do with them. I was, therefore, expecting some of this to be depicted as I have seen and understood, but was pleased in the end that it was not.

Maybe Findley's research and Christian worldview (she and her husband base all their Christian resources on this) and that authors are encouraged to write what they know come into play here. It is from here that I would have to respect her depiction is more mainstream and realistic compared to what I have come to understand.

The story arc that involves Muslims who have become Christians who then set up a ministry to help other Muslims become the same is a refreshing theme. It shows how difficult a ministry like this can be but how successful when it is under God's covering and direction. This topic definitely involves spiritual warfare in its reality and remains so today. 

This novel has a missionary feel about it. Why do we always feel as if missions should only be in third-world countries or as indicated in this novel in the 10/40 Window? There is a mission field right where we live and everywhere we go.

I had to Google what this 10/40 window was. It is

........the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called "The Resistant Belt" and includes the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The original 10/40 Window included only countries with at least 50% of their land mass within 10 and 40 degrees north latitude. The revised 10/40 Window includes several additional countries that are close to 10 or 40 degrees north latitude and have high concentrations of unreached peoples for the Gospel.

In all the novels that Findley writes, she captures the essence of the issues she has constructed her novel around. She (and her husband) have a passion for winning people for Christ and this shows in all the Christian and Biblical resources they produce to do this.

In my review of a previous novel by Findley, I wrote the following, 

Mentioning issues like this and having Findley address them in her novels, shows the extent of her knowledge and understanding of the Word, its application and power when applied to the Christian life. There are many examples in this novel with the Christian characters herein, where she shows her expertise here. For the discerning and receptive Christian reader, this is such a joy to read and be ministered to. Findley includes this as part of the developing plot and characterisation without it coming across as preaching to the choir or the unsaved. To achieve that is a talent and a very effective outcome.

I can say the same for Mapped Out Murders. I loved the behaviour and Christ-like attitude toward the Muslim characters from Sarah and Don and this became a platform for them to consider Christians and Christianity in a new light, one that reflected the redemptive power of the Cross leading to some of them accepting God's gift of Salvation at the end of the novel. This is powerful as the Gospel and His Spirit can minister to people's hearts if we as Christians became willing and open vessels to allow Him to work through us and use us with the calling and gifts we have. God does the rest. 

While reading this novel, I thought of the TV series, Castle. In this series, we had a crime novelist on assignment to a female detective offering insight and resources in helping the police solve their murders. In Findley's novel, we have similarities but Don is the detective's husband who is assigned to aid his detective wife due to his knowledge and experience of Middle Eastern languages and cultures.

As it worked well for Castle, Findley has made it work for this novel. On this level, it is one of the hooks that has made me read this novel as I am not a particular fan of police procedurals. While in the Castle series, Beckett became the love interest for Richard Castle but Findley has Sarah and Don as a married couple very much in love and with their relationship with God as a major pillar of their relationship. Not only for the characterisation development but Findley has included the spiritual aspect of their relationship and it works well. I loved this aspect of the novel. I appreciated as part of this the inclusion of the actual prayers they both interceded for each other, the murder cases, and the Muslim family members. I love seeing this in novels and I don't understand Christian readers who criticise authors for doing this. This is a Christian, Bible-based novel as well. If it is ok for Christians to do this as part of living out our faith, why should there be any angst or disapproval when this is depicted in a Christian novel? Authors strive to make their novels as realistic as possible to reflect how life is so I find this is no different here in relation to this topic.

Another aspect of this novel's construction and characterisation is the flashbacks in Sarah and Don's life. While some readers hate this type of aspect as it is too much too-ing and fro-ing back from their past to the present, I enjoy it as long as it serves a purpose for the furtherance of the novel, its plot and provides a background or further information to the story. It works well in this novel and is effective, adds strength and depth to the characters of Sarah and Don, and enables you to relate to them. The events in the novel that trigger these flashbacks are appropriate and fit into the story arcs well. 

I pray this novel is not a standalone. I would love to see more from Sarah and Don. This could be a great series and Findley has laid the foundation with these two characters for a series to be engaging, entertaining, instructive in Christian living, and showing how one's job can still be a conduit for Him to minister to where the person is at in their situation.

Highly recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Overall Rating: 4.4/5

Spiritually, based on my review and on the aforementioned reference booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland (Radiqx Press) and that Mapped Out Murders contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, together with David Bergsland we bestow Mary Campagna Findley with

 The Reality Calling Redemptive Fiction Award

Congratulations, Mary!

To buy or preview more of this novel, click on the image below: 

Readers and reviews are an author’s best asset, so I encourage any reader, to consider reading Mapped Out Murders and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Reviews help promote an author’s novel to potential readers and encourage the author to keep writing. Reviews also help get the author’s message (and God’s message) to the reader, whether Christian or not, who may need encouragement and support in their lives while being entertained by the story.

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I am required to disclose that book cover images or titles of novels in this post are paid links if they are linked to Amazon and result in a sale.

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