Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Search for Suffering’s End: A Beacon Novella, Book 1

Title: The Search for Suffering’s End: A Beacon Novella, Book 1
Author: Gary Batta
Price: $12.00, print; $3.78, download
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-84728-885-1
Publisher: Gary Batta through Lulu
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The year is 2010 and no one knows when the Suffering began; nor can they find a cure. The most telling symptoms are: pain in the left arm and right leg; a sense of falling down; a feeling that their family is not real; and a severe thirst and hunger that no amount of food or water can satisfy. No one has died from the Suffering…until now.

Detective Hoyt Bodry is retiring in a month from the Hood River Police. Boosting only two crimes a year was a pivotal reason why Hoyt and his wife, Darla chose this quiet place for after his retirement from the force. However, that quiet is disrupted when Jolene Robbins is found dead, of an apparent suicide.

The Search for Suffering’s End: A Beacon Novella, Book 1 is an intense though compelling mystery that opens with murder. Jolene Robbins has the Suffering and because she hangs from a noose the police assume it’s a suicide. However, when Hoyt examines the wounds on her arms he quickly deduces that it’s murder; the complex symbols were cut into her arms with expert surgical precision As soon as the second murder occurs the Oregon State Department sends a forensic team to help Hoyt investigate. The investigation suffers a blow when a forensic scientist succumbs to the Suffering, and then Hoyt’s First Officer admits to battling the disease as well. Devoutly religious, Hoyt holds to stanch Bible convictions that has him wondering if God is punishing those who are not strong in belief; giving credence for his immunity to the Suffering. His speculations are refuted when the replacement scientist admits to being an atheist, but is not afflicted with the disease.

As the body count rises, more clues are revealed but none place Hoyt closer to capturing the murderer. Though one clue is clear, the killer targets only those who do not revere God, and when Hoyt receives a letter from the killer, he’s right; “I can get to you, Detective Bodry. But our faith protects you. -Suffering’s End.” However, the killer, again, lashes out at Hoyt, causing him to question his God for the first time in his life. When this case is over will Hoyt’s salvation remain unyielding?

I thought this story refreshing as it’s characters are more mature, growing older and readying for retirement, although genuine too. Hoyt’s unbendable religious beliefs seem heartless when encountering those with the Suffering; showing no compassion or acceptance that the Bible speaks of. Even when Lucy, whom he highly respects, confesses to having the disease, he cannot put aside his prejudices. The secondary characters are just as strong, supporting Hoyt as the suspenseful plot moves along. Lucy’s compassion shines when interacting with another who has the Suffering. Darryl Marin is stoic though methodical and focused on detail as he reveals critical clues overlooked before. The Search for Suffering’s End is quite engaging and more so when ending with a cliffhanger.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Pamela.

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