cover image DEROS: A Father Jake Austin Mystery

DEROS: A Father Jake Austin Mystery

John A. Vanek. Coffeetown, $16.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-60381-619-9

Fr. Jake Austin, the hero of Vanek’s promising debut and series launch, returns to his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio, in 2002 to take up a temporary post at a Catholic hospital in nearby Lorain—an assignment that coincides with his high school class’s 30th reunion. In high school, Jake was a football star and rowdy. He later became a medic in Vietnam, eventually a doctor, and finally a priest. At the reunion, Jake reconnects with such people as police chief Tremont “Tree” Macon, a former football pal; old girlfriend Emily Beale, whose blindness comes as a shock; and Emily’s acerbic ex-husband, Everett McDermott. The reunion quickly goes from bad to worse: at the banquet, the speaker collapses, another is attendee is poisoned, and a threatening note seems to target Emily. Late that night, someone shoots Everett at his home, leaving him in a coma. Full of conflicting emotions, Jake has a lot to cope with in a mystery that’s as much a character study as a whodunit. The title is an acronym for Date of Expected Return from Overseas—the relevance of which isn’t immediately obvious. Readers will look forward to seeing more of Jake. (Feb.)