Sunday, October 24, 2010


"It was one of those freakish October days, when the mercury shoots up to the nineties, catching everyone off guard..."  (Prologue)

When a young girl under her care dies, Dr. Jo Banks (20-something) is racked with guilt. In an effort to escape the pain and heartbreak of her misdiagnosis, Jo gets in her car and starts to drive. Lost in thought and with no destination in mind, she sets off from her home in Manhattan and hightails it onto the New Jersey Turnpike. Jo winds up hours - and what seems like a world - away from the big city, in Bayfield, a small, rural enclave in Southwest New Jersey, where "the serene line of the horizon (was) broken only by an occasional lone tree or scarecrow." Shortly after she checks in to the Oakview Motor Lodge, she is called upon to treat a woman staying at the motel who has suddenly taken ill. Jo's actions that night ultimately prompt her to uproot her life and take a job serving as a "cooperative house doctor" at several motels in the region. The nearest hospital is over an hour away.

Thus, Dr. Jo Banks' journey enters a new chapter. She is given her own cabin at Oakview in which to live and work. Slowly building her practice, Jo begins to fall in love with the small town and the people who live there. Feeling freer and more liberated than ever, she buys a motorcycle to make "house" calls. But when a dead man, disguised as a scarecrow, is found perched in a local farm field, Jo suddenly becomes swept up in a series of murders involving itinerant farm workers and morphs from town doctor to amateur sleuth.

SCARECROW is a brisk, fast-paced read - perfect to curl up with during this autumn time of year. SCARECROW is also the first in a series of three books (the next two are SATAN'S PONY and SLEIGHT OF HAND; a fourth is currently in the works) that features strong, independent Dr. Jo and a cast of intriguing, well-defined characters.

 Robin Hathaway is masterful at writing short, tightly compressed chapters (with astutely rendered descriptions) that balance rich characterizations with an engaging plot. I marvel at how she gives so much information and backstory with a single line of description and/or dialogue. Read Chapter One and you'll see what I mean...In four, crisp pages, Hathaway presents everything you need to know about Dr. Jo Banks by showing you, rather than telling you. Impeccable!

If you like Jo Banks as much as I do, don't miss Hathaway's other award-winning mysteries, the Dr. Fenimore series of books

To watch an interview with Robin Hathaway link HERE.

Scarecrow by Robin Hathaway
(Minotaur Books, Hardcover, 9780312308513, 224pp.)
Publication Date: April 2003
To purchase this book via INDIEBOUND click HERE

Saturday, October 9, 2010


James "Jim" Dressler is a kind, gentle 20-something young man who shoots hoops and plays poker with his buddies, likes to hang out in bars and have a few drinks, and has a weakness for women, which often makes him unable to quell his sensual urges. He is also a Roman Catholic Priest. Therein lies the moral conflict imbued in VESTMENTS, a beautifully-rendered debut novel from John Reimringer.

Modern-day Catholics and the contemporary Catholic family are Reimringer's focus, and he knows the landscape very well. There is Jim, the priest, who was drawn to the church--namely the rituals and ceremonies--as a young boy. It seems that Jim took his vows less for the spiritual implications and more as a place of refuge from a dysfunctional family.  However, this choice has actually isolated and alienated Jim from his kin. Jim has an alcoholic father, who is not keen about (nor proud of) his son's choice of career.  His mother is a church-going Catholic who prefers to adhere to her own rules rather than those of the church. Jim's brother's and sister's only claim to being Catholic is their reference to Jim as "our brother, the priest." Jim's ailing grandfather tenaciously clings to his faith to escape the lingering emotional wounds of war and his fear of impending death.  He seems to be the family member who shows the most reverence for God and displays a sincere depth of spirituality.

Jim returns to his hometown after being forced to take a sabbatical from the priesthood - he has broken his vows of celibacy with several women. Once home, he tries to deal with his family and grapple with the implications of what he has done. If that weren't enough, Reimringer ups the ante by having Jim cross paths with an old flame, a woman who was his first true love. Through a parallel structure, Reimringer peels back Jim's layers by interspersing powerful scenes from the past with the present action. This romantic subplot, told in real time and flashback, forces Jim to reconcile his feelings for the priesthood and helps him decide if he can stay committed to the celibate life, once and for all.

Reimringer casts Jim as a liberal ("abortion is not all wrong") and very self-forgiving Catholic. His modernity is real, and it makes him all the more accessible to the reader.  However, what was Jim's ultimate goal for his life by serving in the priesthood? And beyond the physicality of the Catholic Church and its rituals, did Jim ever cultivate an intimate, personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ? Questions like these kept me riveted to this novel and made me eager to make an emotional investment in this provocative story until the very last page.