cover image CROWN OF THORNS: A Nick Barrett Mystery

CROWN OF THORNS: A Nick Barrett Mystery

Sigmund Brouwer, . . Tyndale, $22.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-8423-3038-1

In this edgy sequel to Out of the Shadows (2002), Brouwer brews an ambitious mix of voodoo, cult Christianity, racial intolerance and romance. Set against the backdrop of present-day Charleston, this is an intriguing novel for the evangelical Christian market. Young Timothy Larrabee delivers "the potion of death" to his abusive grandmother, Agnes, setting in motion a surreal chain of events that culminates nearly five decades later. Through first-person narrative, Nicholas "Nick" Barrett tells of the request by his delightful elderly spinster friends and antique shop proprietors, Glennifer and Elaine Beloise, to investigate the ownership and whereabouts of a mysterious painting once owned by Agnes Larrabee. The artwork turns up in the possession of a street-savvy urchin nicknamed "Angel," courtesy of her Grammie Zora, a voodoo queen. Meanwhile, in third-person narrative, Retha Herndon agonizes over escaping the rigid prison of her cult community so she may find medical treatment for her seriously ill toddler. There are so many characters, subplots and narrative perspectives that readers may have to work diligently to keep track of who is who, although Brouwer usually succeeds in keeping the story lines from getting too tangled. As in Out of the Shadows, his major misstep is inserting passages of didactic instruction and sermonizing. Despite this flaw, Brouwer's novel offers strong writing and is one of the better options for CBA readers this fall. (Oct.)