Threads of Suspicion // by Dee Henderson

//published 2017// Look, another solid cover, too! //

And here we are, the final Dee Henderson book!  It’s been a long and interesting journey, one that I began just because I wanted to read this book, which was generously provided to me by the publisher, Bethany House.  While I definitely appreciate the book, their gift doesn’t impact my review.

This is the second book with Evie Blackwell as the main character; we met her in Traces of Guilt.  This book opens a few months later with the newly appointed Missing Persons Cold Case Task Force (I’m sure they have a shorter, catchier name, but I don’t remember it) taking on their first official set of cases.  There are several members of the task force, but our story really only deals with one other member, David.  His missing person is from the same area as Evie’s, so they set up shop together, and even though each of them is primarily focused on his or her own case, they swap ideas and information throughout.

David’s missing person is a private investigator, while Evie’s is a college student.  Overall, it felt like Henderson did a good job balancing the two cases – they touch, but aren’t dependent on each other.  David and Evie have a good relationship; they were already acquaintances, but now they are working together and even though their work styles are different, they balance.  There’s not even a whiff of romance between them; both are involved in serious, steady relationships elsewhere, which makes their friendship more relaxed and comfortable.

There are definitely quite a few coincidences that crop up when the plot needs a nudge (although nothing quite as bad as Perfect Ann’s sweeping conclusion in the last book), and the ending wasn’t a complete cop-out, although it could have been a little tighter.

As always, Henderson handles the religious/Christian aspect of her stories really well.  I know I’ve been busy complaining about a lot of her other books and haven’t touched on this much, but she’s one of the few people who writes Christians in a way that feels genuine and honest.  They aren’t perfect people and they aren’t hypocritical puppets; they’re just realistic individuals who have made a commitment and are doing their best to follow it.  Conversations on the topic always feel natural and very rarely verge into the preachy.

All in all, Threads of Suspicion was a solid read that left me feeling like I actually will pick up Henderson’s next book, especially if Evie makes a reappearance.  I’ve had my ups and and a lot of downs with Henderson’s more recent novels, but this one is a good addition to her bibliography.  3.5/5 and recommended.

#5 for #20BooksofSummer!


Traces of Guilt // by Dee Henderson

//published 2016// Bonus! A cover that doesn’t make me cringe! //

Traces of Guilt is the first book a new series that Henderson is writing – the Evie Blackwell Cold Cases.  However, they actually tie in with a BUNCH of the characters from Henderson’s “standalones,” and I’m not completely sure if I would have understood all the character interactions if I hadn’t already read the earlier books.  Perfect Ann plays a pretty important part in this book (because guess what!  The ridiculously introverted Ann is also friends with Evie!)

This book was significantly better than the last few Henderson novels that I’ve read.  Evie is quite likable.  She works for the Illinois State Police, but is using her vacation time to work on a few cold cases in Carin County.  The governor-elect is planning to start a task force the following January (book is set in November), sending a team of specially selected individuals to work through cold cases involving missing people.  Evie is doing a sort of test-run in Carin County at the suggestion of Perfect Ann.

Gabe Thane is the sheriff of Carin County, as his father was before him.  Gabe’s brothers both live around Carin Lake as well – Josh and Will.  Because they’ve lived there all their lives, the two cold cases Evie is working on have a very personal feel for the brothers.

The first case involves the disappearance of an entire family – a deputy sheriff, his wife, and their 11-year-old son all disappeared, along with their truck and camper, on their way to spend the weekend camping.  No sign has been found of them despite an extensive search at the time, and several times of revisiting the case.  The second case is the disappearance of a young girl from Florida, who went missing while her family was staying a local hotel.

Overall, this story had much tighter plotting and an actual story, which was nice.  Like I said, I really liked Evie, and also Gabe.  I was really drawn into the process of searching for the missing family.  While there wasn’t a lot of urgency to this story, since presumably people who have been missing for 10 or so years are probably dead, it was still engaging.

I was moderately annoyed that every time the  narrative changed (third person) perspective, the person’s name was placed as a heading.  I really feel like the words Ann Falcon are a completely unnecessary indicator that we’ve switched perspectives when the first sentence of the paragraph starts with something like, “Ann was puzzled over Josh’s behavior.”  Why do authors do this??  The random headings were quite distracting to me – it’s annoyed me in books by other people, too.  I can understand when it’s a first-person narrative, but it makes NO sense when it’s third person.

The biggest thing that annoyed me by far, though, was when Perfect Ann announced that she “knew” what had happened to the girl who had disappeared.  She has literally NO evidence, and while I’ll admit that her theory does tie together some coincidences, making it probable, it’s a BIG jump from probable to definite.  But an entire room of supposedly experienced law-enforcement officers all nodded their heads, agreed that Ann was right, and then just didn’t bother investigating the case any further!?  Later, evidence does show up to, of course, prove that Perfect Ann was right, but I was SUPER aggravated that everyone just accepted Ann’s theory as 100% fact, as though there weren’t fifty million other possibilities out there.

It also confused me a little because the other books I’ve been reading of Henderson all act like they are these big mysteries and not a lot of romance, and then have ended up the opposite.  This one completely sounded like the main thrust of the story was going to be about a developing relationship between Evie and Gabe… and that doesn’t even kind of happen?!  I do not understand people who write synopses.

All in all, this was a 3/5.  While there was a lot more story and things of interest going on, the ending still really fizzled out.  After spending all this time working on the disappearance of the family, the solution to the mystery felt awkward and tacked on, and also, weirdly, felt like Evie didn’t really solve it.  It was a conclusion that fit the facts, but still felt weird.  Still, a decent and engaging read that did a fairly good job of setting things up for the next book as well.

Book #4 for the #20BooksofSummer!!!

Taken // by Dee Henderson

//published 2015//

Sometimes when you read several of an author’s books in a row, you begin to notice that they favor a certain type of plot twist or character, something that may not stand out as much if you just pick up one of their books every now and again, but really jumps out at you if you consume several in a row.  Henderson seems to have a thing for having people be kidnapped…  Ann was kidnapped in Full DisclosureCharlotte was kidnapped in Unspokenand in Taken we meet yet ANOTHER kidnapping victim, Shannon.

Now this wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that all of these characters exist in the same fictional world, and they all know one another!  I mean seriously, what are the odds?!  Plus, in this book Shannon meets up with Matthew… whose daughter was ALSO kidnapped when she was a kid.  ?!?!?!!?

So yes, basically Shannon spent years being held by this nomadic family who ran this kind of weird crime ring around the country.  There has been some kind of killing and she was able to escape from her specific captors, although other members of the family are still around and possibly will be super angry that Shannon is meandering about telling all their secrets.  Shannon purposefully reveals her true identity to Matthew, because she had read newspaper articles about him when his daughter was missing, and thinks he will understand her situation and be able to help her.  Between his experience and his job as a private investigator, plus the fact that he conveniently knows Perfect Ann, Matthew is able to do just that.

The main problem with this book is that I almost died of boredom while reading it.  The entire book felt incredibly passive because all of the action is in the past.  There was never a single moment that it seemed like Shannon was in danger, and for someone who was held captive for years, she’s remarkably chill about the whole thing, so it didn’t even really feel like the story was about a victim readjusting to normal life.

Instead, it’s just rambling conversations and this whole thing that’s complicated because Shannon’s brother is running for governor, so everyone acts like it’s really important that we make sure that Shannon’s reappearance doesn’t mess up his chances to win that position.  (In fairness, the brother doesn’t seem to care nearly as much as everyone else, and he was so genuinely kind to his sister and happy to see her; I liked that bit.)  There’s a smidge of mystery surrounding who arranged to have Shannon kidnapped, but even that just kind of fizzles out.

In Undetected there were PAGES about Mark agonizing over the 10-11yr age difference between himself and Gina, but in Taken Matthew is like 15+ years older than Shannon (who is only in her mid-20’s), PLUS you know, Shannon is a RECOVERING KIDNAPPING VICTIM?!  But everyone is super chill about the whole thing, and if anyone talks to Shannon about needing to take some time before making a decision, she totally blows it off because she “knows” Matthew is the only one for her… ???  While I liked Matthew and liked Matthew and Shannon as a couple, it felt weird.  It also felt like there was absolutely no reason for there to be such a big age difference between them, so I’m not sure why that was even a thing.

Finally, this novel is supposedly a “standalone,” yet there were TONS of conversations between characters that I don’t think would have made any sense if I hadn’t read earlier books, especially a throwaway conversation where Charlotte’s friend tells her fiancee that she’s going to tell Charlotte’s husband “the truth about Marie” … if I hadn’t read the earlier books, I would have no idea even who the heck Marie was, and then, to top it off…  she never tells him anything??  I actually DID want to know the truth about Marie, so I was kind of aggravated that that came to nothing.

Anyway, I’m really focusing on the negative here. There were a lot of solid conversations and enjoyable relationships – it wasn’t like I hated every page.  But overall the book was just TOO slow without enough action or urgency to carry it through, earning it 2/5.

#3 for #20BooksofSummer

Undetected // by Dee Henderson


I read this book back in 2014 as an ARC when it was first published, and felt rather ambivalent towards it then.  I reread it as part of my ongoing saga of plowing through all of Dee Henderson’s backlog, and actually found that I liked it even less this time around (or maybe am more impatient towards Henderson’s poor character development when I know she can do better), as I dropped from a 3/5 to 2/5.

Gina is a legit genius who has done some amazing sciency things involving sonar, which she’s especially interested in because her brother, Jeff, is the commander (or whatever they call them) of a submarine for the US Navy.  Gina and Jeff are orphans and are very close, and at the beginning of the book she moves back to the base where he lives on the west coast as a relationship that she’s been in for a couple of years has just ended.  Gina’s 29 and feels like she’s ready to get married, so she asks her brother if he knows any nice guys that might be interested.  Jeff’s first thought is his good friend Mark Bishop (who actually happens to be the brother of Bryce, the main dude from Unspoken).

Mark is a widower in his mid-40’s and he really likes Gina but feels like he’s too old for her because they are like 11 years apart.  (As someone whose husband is ten years older, I found myself a bit confused at this point, but whatever.)  So Jeff finds another friend, Daniel, who immediately likes Gina and they start going out.  Meanwhile, Mark keeps running into Gina and becomes increasingly intrigued by her intelligence and humor, etc etc etc and decides that he IS interested after all because he feels like he would be an awesome husband for her.  So we get this weird love triangle where everyone knows that both guys are interested in Gina, and Mark says stupid stuff about how having two guys like her will be really good for Gina’s self-esteem (or it could make her feel really pressured and confused?!), and both guys are like, “May the best man win” and it’s just really ridiculous and annoying.

Basically, I didn’t like Mark, who comes across as INCREDIBLY condescending.  He’s super pushy towards Gina and spends a lot of time talking himself up, about how he was a really awesome husband during his first marriage and how he knows he’s going to be an awesome husband for Gina, too, because he can READ HER MIND and knows exactly what she needs ALL THE TIME.  And while he claims to be impressed by Gina’s intelligence and independence, my notes say, “So obnoxious how he keeps marveling at her maturity – she’s almost 30??  So youngish, yes, but she was in college at 14, like her being thoughtful and mature shouldn’t be this big surprise.”

But it is!  Then, he finally convinces her to marry him, and after that he does something that REALLY annoys me – he keeps telling her not to worry about things she isn’t worrying about.  So he’ll say something like, “Don’t worry about all the responsibilities that come with being a commander’s wife; everyone will help you out,” and she’s like, “I’m really not worried about; I’m sure I’ll settle right in and handle it fine,” and he’s like, “Okay, but don’t worry about it; I know it’s going to be a LOT of work and REALLY hard, but it will be okay!”  And then later he’s he thinks to himself, “Wow, she is surprisingly good at being a commander’s wife!  That’s crazy!  It’s almost like SHE HAS BEEN IN THE WORLD OF ADULTS SINCE THE AGE OF 14 AND IS NOW 30 YEARS OLD AND KNOWS HOW TO ADULT!”

So once again, a kind of meh story that would have been enjoyable if the main dude hadn’t been so freaking annoying.  I actually really, really liked Daniel and felt like he was a WAY better match for Gina, so I just couldn’t get into Mark as being THE MAN, when if he had tried any of his stupid lines on me, I would have told him where to get off.

2/5, and as I’m reviewing these books, I’m starting to wonder why I kept reading them!?  My only excuse is that I was actually really busy doing lots of other things, so my reading was just a chapter or two a day.  I think if I had sat down and really read large chunks of these books at a time, I would have gotten impatient with them a lot sooner.

Book #2 for #20BooksofSummer!

Unspoken // by Dee Henderson

//published 2013//

As my Dee Henderson binge continued, I was leery of picking up the next title.  Full Disclosure had been such a terrible read that I was a little scared of Unspoken.  However, while Unspoken wasn’t one of my favorite books ever, it was back into the solid 3/5 range, with a decent story, interesting characters, and some excellent dialogue – even if I did have to suffer more interaction with Perfect Ann, one of the BFFs of this books protagonists.  (Despite the fact that Ann is a SUPER HARDCORE INTROVERT who CANNOT HANDLE PEOPLE AT ALL.)

I think the main problem with these books on the whole is that Henderson has put the thriller/mystery/action part of her books in the back seat (possibly in the back seat of a full-sized van), while the romance/relationship aspect takes the wheel.  So while these stories are alright, they tend to drag through the middle bits where it’s just the main characters meandering about wondering whether or not they should get married/analyzing feelings.  Instead of an active storyline, it’s mostly people who have suffered some kind of trauma in the past (Taken, which I haven’t reviewed yet, was really bad that way), so there is no sense of urgency.

In this book, Charlotte is the main character, and she was kidnapped and held for several years, so she has a lot going on as far as recovering from some serious trauma.  I actually did like her relationship with Bryce and felt like he was really good for her.  There’s this whole side-plot, though, where Charlotte can inherit a bunch of money if she gets married, and while it was overall handled well – and I think Henderson was really just trying to use it as a catalyst so Charlotte had to make a decision – it still felt a smidge like Bryce was also marrying Charlotte for her money (even though he’s also super rich…)

Speaking of which, I found myself snorting with sarcastic laughter when shortly after they get married, Charlotte and Bryce are talking about how their daily lives are going to look, and basically Charlotte is an artist and has a studio in their house and Bryce is working from home (his job is now giving away Charlotte’s money to charity?!), and they say something like they don’t want this to be a “marriage where they just see each other at breakfast and dinner and never in between,” as though most people have marriages like that from choice instead of necessity.  Like, yeah, I’d like my marriage to be one where I saw my husband between breakfast and supper, too, except, you know, he has to earn money to pay our bills because no one has handed us millions of dollars.  I mean seriously.

Even though I’m whining about this book a bit, it was actually a fine read as long as you went into it with the attitude that this was going to be a story about relationships.  I really wish that Henderson would either go back to writing thrillers, or would market her books as romance, because what she ends up with is a boring thriller that’s spread too thin because she’s so busy with relationships, while the relationship part feels really stilted and unnatural because of the “thriller” going on in the background.

3/5 for Unspoken.  Decent read, but nothing amazing.

However, this is Book #1 for #20BooksofSummer – progress!

PS I was really glad that I read most of these books on my Kindle because these covers are D R E A D F U L.  I mean, look at that poor guy.  He looks like he’s been constipated for days.  UGH.

Full Disclosure // by Dee Henderson

//published 2012// Another ugh cover //

As I mentioned the other day, I have found myself reading through all of Dee Henderson’s standalone novels, most of which are not actually standalone novels, as they all interconnect and have repeating characters.  This really starts with Full Disclosure, which introduces Paul Falcon and Ann Silver (who becomes Ann Falcon).  Paul and Ann show up in basically all the rest of Henderson’s books, which is a bit unfortunate, as I found Ann to be one of the most irritating characters I’ve read about in quite some time.

Our story starts with Paul, who works for the FBI in Chicago.  He’s a basically likable guy, and he’s hanging out one day when this woman shows up in his office and tells him a little story about a car wreck that took place in her district.  Turns out that this guy is the key to solving a very old case of Paul’s – a female assassin, who murdered multiple people a while back but has been retired for some years.  Paul is immediately intrigued by Ann, so instead of this being a really interesting book about solving this cold case, it turns into one big long yawnfest with Ann at the center.

The problem is, Ann is perfect.  Actually, I’ll just quote my own notes from my little notebook where I vent my initial feelings on books:  “So, so boring.  Ann is perfect.  Perfect and BORING.  Paul loves Ann, so let’s have pages of Paul thinking about how perfect Ann is.  Let’s ask all Ann’s friends.  Guess what!  They say she’s perfect!”

Then, in a completely bizarre twist, we find out not just that Ann is an author (on top of being a pilot, a major homicide detective for the midwest, basically a genius, a county sheriff, a close friend to a former vice-president, a chess master, and an artist!), but that the books she wrote are Dee Henderson’s O’Malley books.  This made this one of the strangest and most awkward books ever.  Is Henderson writing herself into the books?  Is she basing Ann Silver on her own character?  Well, that’s kind of awkward considering Ann is FREAKING PERFECT.  Now we get all these people praising Ann’s books and what an awesome writer she is and how her books have changed their lives… so basically Henderson telling us what a great writer she is?!  Seriously, it was SO WEIRD and I legit felt embarrassed for Henderson when I was reading it.

I skimmed large portions of this book and only finished it because I knew that Paul and Ann show up in several other books, so I wanted to understand their story.  There is this whole other story involving this former vice-president (who of course loves Ann because she is PERFECT) that was just A+ bizarre-o and made no sense, that just added to the whole weird-dream vibe of this book.  It was like Henderson was on drugs while she was writing this.

The thing is, I didn’t think Ann was perfect.  I thought she was annoying, selfish, and rude.  She expects Paul to make like a zillion changes to his life and dreams to accommodate her and all her issues, and she compromises NOTHING.  The most annoying one was the way that she used the fact that she’s an “introvert” (who knows everyone and has a million super close friends who are all REALLY important people who all think Ann is PERFECT) as this big excuse for needing to spend oodles of time all by herself, so basically Paul creates an entire miniapartment in his house so Ann can have her own retreat for ONE WEEK A MONTH to spend time alone.  Must be nice to be independently wealthy so you can just disappear for days on end!  And as an aside…  if you can’t even handle a full month hanging out with someone, why in the heck are you marrying him!?

But what really got me was her stance on never having children EVER and her only reason was because she’s such an introvert that she can’t handle kids.  It was never an actual conversation with Paul, it was an ultimatum.  If you want to marry me, no kids.  Period.  Despite the fact that at the beginning of the book the whole vibe of Paul is wanting to get married so he can start a family and carry on his family heritage, etc.  I’m not saying that Ann should have caved and agreed to have children, it just felt incredibly one-sided that it wasn’t even a conversation.  Ever.

There were a lot of little things about this book that annoyed me, too, like the fact that Ann has known the former VP for ages, yet always calls him “sir,” or the way that Paul went around asking all Ann’s friends all about her before starting to date her.  The story didn’t hang together and felt like mere background for the praise-fest for Ann.  UGH.

And the Skyping?!  Like why the heck are Paul and Ann even video chatting with each other when THEY AREN’T ACTUALLY TALKING.  Pages were spent, on MULTIPLE OCCASIONS where it’s things like Ann watching Paul eat supper or Paul watching Ann sleep (creepy much??!).

Honestly, if it wasn’t because I had agreed to review the ARC of Henderson’s later book (which looked intriguing – and actually was really good; I’ll review it one of these days), I would have never picked up another of Henderson’s books again because this one was so freaking BORING.  As it was, I skimmed through and survived by making lots of sarcastic notes.  1/5 and  not even kind of recommended, which is sad, because I have found so many of Henderson’s books to be really good reads.

The Witness // Before I Wake // by Dee Henderson

I had so many good resolutions when I last posted here, all these ways I was going to get caught up on my backlog of reviews and get this blog back on track!  …and then my internet went out for a week.  Ah well, such is life.  I don’t really get all that stressed about it, other than the fact that the piles of books around my computer are threatening to topple over…

As I mentioned, I’ve been reading through Dee Henderson’s standalone novels.  It started because I received her most recent book, Threads of Suspicion, as an ARC from Bethany House.  Now this book is the second book in Henderson’s new series – the Evie Blackwell Cold Cases.  Being myself, I thought I would just go ahead and read the first book, Traces of Guilt, first, and then I would be good to go.  I really have a problem of not being able to dip in and out of series… I basically feel a compulsion to read them all, in order.

So anyway, I open up Traces of Guilt and start to read… and on the very first page is a character that I definitely remembered from being in one of Henderson’s other books!  So then I started wondering if this really was a new series, or if there were going to be a lot overlapping characters……..and before I knew it, I had been sucked in, and ended up reading all of the novels she has published since her O’Malley series (which I actually really enjoyed).

Here’s the thing:  Henderson’s “standalone” novels aren’t really standalones… a lot of them have interconnecting characters, which, over time, does become kind of important.  I’m at the point now where I’ve been immersed in her world for eight books, though, so it’s kind of hard for me to say whether or not these books would make sense if genuinely read on their own.  Some of them would, I think, but others it seems like a lot would go over your head if you didn’t know some of the background for the characters.  What I really don’t understand is why, in general, authors don’t indicate when books are connected??  I’m not sure if they don’t want to scare people off by making their  books a series or what, but I’ve come across this with other authors as well, and it honestly drives me crazy.  I WANT TO READ THE BOOKS IN ORDER and it’s extremely aggravating when I can’t even figure out what order that is supposed to be because the author is pretending like they are all independent books when they AREN’T!  With Henderson, I had to go through and determine when each book had been published and read them in that order.  What.  Even.

SO.  General ranting about the concept of calling books standalone when they are not, in fact, standalone, is over – on to the actual books themselves!

The problem is that I really enjoyed the O’Malley series so much.  They were engaging, exciting, full of solid conversations, and tackled topics and themes in a realistic and thought-provoking way without ever sounding preachy.  And none of Henderson’s other books have lived up to those in my mind, so even though many of her books are pretty decent, I’m always somewhat disappointed because they aren’t as good as the O’Malley series.

With that in mind…  I found both The Witness and Before I Wake to be 3/5 reads.  They were interesting and had decent characterization, but somehow just lacked the zing.

//published 2006//

The Witness was just a bit slow, especially since it SEEMED like it should be quite exciting.  Luke is the chief of police and, in the first chapter, is on the scene shortly after a shooting takes place in a jewelry store.  The only witness is a young woman who, Luke eventually finds out, is on the run from a different crime she witnessed several years earlier.  While the story started well, it slowly devolved from a thriller into a gentle romance, a theme I found running through several of Henderson’s books.  It just doesn’t seem right to advertise a book as a romantic thriller when it’s basically just the romantic part…

Soon there were too many couples:  Luke and Amanda.  Connor and Marie.  Caleb and Tracey.  And several other pairs that Henderson kept hinting around should or would be dating soon.  After a very long middle section where basically nothing happens except for all the couples working through their internal problems (which are pretty easy to solve because everyone is ridiculously wealthy – another common Henderson theme), all of the sudden there is a bunch of action that feels quite abrupt and SOMEONE DIES, which was quite upsetting and felt completely unnecessary.

All in all, not a bad book, but not one I feel compelled to read again.

//published 2003// Also, she has some of THE WORST covers of all time, ugh //

There were some common issues with Before I Wake.  Again, the premise is completely engaging – several women, apparently unconnected, die in their sleep, despite being youngish and in apparently good health.  No sign of foul play or visitors.  Rae has recently moved to town to become a business partner with a guy she used to date, Bruce, who is a private investigator.  Rae used to work undercover for the FBI and had an assignment go south.  Still recovering emotionally, she’s left DC behind and moved to this small town outside of Chicago.

This book had a tighter story and more tension.  But there was this weird, super-polite love triangle as Bruce is still quite interested in Rae romantically, but the sheriff, Nathan, is also very interested in Rae.  Rae isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life or if she is interested in either of these guys, and in the meantime the three of them work together virtually with no tension, which didn’t really seem likely, given the interconnecting emotions.

This book would have probably gotten 4/5, except the ending felt like a total cop-out.  There were several suspects and a lot of different motives, but SPOILER, it’s just a random dude?  And then he just conveniently dies in a car wreck, so everyone’s problems are solved, hurrah!  There was also no resolution in the relationships between Rae, Bruce, and Nathan, and it honestly felt like Henderson was getting ready to start another series with this trio, as the relationships had that very open-ended feel to them.  But we actually don’t here from these guys again in the rest of the books, so oh well I suppose.

Overall, Before I Wake was a book that could have been really good but ended up kind of meh because of the weak ending.

This actually means that I have FINALLY finished reviewing all of my May reads, so maybe someday we’ll actually look at books I’ve been reading in June… even though June is almost over…!!!



by Dee Henderson

Published 2014

(Bethany House sent me this book for free, which has not in any way altered my review.)

So, for those of you who were following this blog last spring, you’ll recall that I read through Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series and really, really enjoyed it.  They were suspenseful, had great character development, and allowed the “religious” aspect to flow in a way that was natural, unintrusive, and thought-provoking.  This past winter, I read her Uncommon Heroes series.  While I didn’t enjoy those as much, they were still decent reads, if a little shorter on plot and depth than the O’Malleys.

All that to say, I was pretty stoked when I got a free copy of Undetected, because I’m always up for a new Henderson.  However, while this was a fine book, it was more in line with the Uncommon Heroes than the O’Malleys, leaving me feeling a bit meh about it overall.

Gina Gray, our heroine, is a genius – a legit, incredible, brilliantly intelligent genius.  She and her brother, who is in the navy, are alone in the world, and some of her past projects have dealt with ways to make her brother’s life, on board a submarine, safer.  At the beginning of this book, she’s off to her brother’s naval base to work on a new project, and recover from the sudden end of a two-year relationship.  There, she meets up with Commander Mark Bishop – or rather re-meets up with, as she’s known him for years as her brother’s friend.

And basically, this book is kind of a romantic story with that military background, incredibly similar to the Uncommon Heroes books.  I’m just not that into the military and I don’t tend to get all teary-eyed over it, so I think that this book, like the other series, loses some of its potential emotional impact for me.    Gina asks her brother to help her find a nice guy to marry, basically, and her brother asks Mark if he’s interested, and Mark says no because he’s like ten years older than Gina, and a widower.  (Gina’s almost 30, so it’s not like he’s some dude in his 30’s hitting on a girl just out of high school or something super creepy, just to clarify.)  So her brother introduces her to this other guy, Daniel, who’s really interested in Gina and super, super nice.  Meanwhile, Mark realizes that he actually IS interested in Gina, so he starts kinda making a move on her as well (but in a really gentlemanly kind of way).  So this book ends up being a slightly irritating love triangle story, except a love triangle where everyone is incredibly nice and thoughtful and good at communication so like Daniel knows that Mark’s also interested in Gina and they agree to this kind of “may the best man win even if it isn’t either of us” sort of attitude and………..

I don’t know.  I just couldn’t get into this story.  There wasn’t a lot happening, and while all of the characters were nice, that’s about all they were.  I didn’t feel this depth or character development coming from any of them, and in some ways I really felt like Mark was super pushy about wanting to marry Gina.  Basically, he was like, “Hey, no pressure, but I’m a super awesome dude and I was a rockin’ husband before and I’ll be an amazing husband to you and we will deal fabulously so you know no pressure but” and it kind of got on my nerves.  In the end, it felt like Gina made her own decision, but it all played out kind of weirdly to me.

In the end, this book was a solid 3/5.  It was a fine read with a decent story, but none of the characters really spoke to me, and I felt like there wasn’t enough story to keep things moving.  I read the book when I was reading it, but felt no yearning to return to it if I had to put it down.  While I’m still planning to read what was apparently a first book in this series (? There’s a book about one of Mark’s brothers, and he has another one, so I’m guessing there will be at least one more book??), this really wasn’t a classic I want to read time and again.

True Courage



by Dee Henderson

Published 2004

I AM SO BEHIND ON BOOK REVIEWS.  Sorry!  It’s been crazy busy somehow, but I have a couple of Amelia Peabody mysteries, two more Regina Doman books, the first couple of books in Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci series, a Robin McKinley book I’d never read, the beginning of Donita Paul’s dragon series, and the long-awaited The War That Ended Peace that I’ve been reading for MONTHS.  So hopefully I’ll have some time for posting soon!

For now, let’s wrap up Henderson’s “Uncommon Heroes” series –

This book was really a one-off.  The other three books, while not particularly building on each other, still went together, with characters who had been in forefront of earlier books appearing in the background, and vice versa.  But no familiar faces appear in True Courage, and I really have no idea why it’s considered part of the series instead of just its own book.

True Courage was also a lot more intense than the other three books.  While they ended up being more about the relationships, this book had a bit more kick to it, with an actual criminal to pursue.  Obviously, Luke and Caroline’s developing relationship is a large part of the story, but there was a lot more of the thriller about this book.  However, it was no near the standards of the O’Malley series, and while this book (and the other three) were fine reads, I would definitely recommend starting with the O’Malleys for some actual don’t-read-by-yourself-on-a-stormy-night thriller material.


True Honor



by Dee Henderson

Published 2002

This is the third book in Henderson’s “Uncommon Heroes” series.  These books are stories that focus on members of various branches of the military.  The first two, as a I mentioned, were really more love stories than thrillers.  In True Honor, though, the thriller aspect does make a bit of a reappearance.

Henderson started writing this book in 2001, which, as you may recall, was interrupted by the tragedy of 9/11.  Henderson felt the necessity (since her stories are usually set in “today”) of restructuring her story to engage this monumental event.  Over ten years later, it’s actually quite intriguing to read a book that was written in the throes of the immediate aftermath of 9/11, a reminder of many of the conflicting feelings from that time.

One thing that really stands out is the idea that 9/11 was an act of war, that led to war, and that that war would have clear parameters and a tidy ending.  In 2014, we know that that wasn’t the case.  The “war on terror” was nothing if not consistently vague.  Henderson manages to combat that in her own story by creating a very specific villain for her characters to chase, thus enabling her story (and characters) have closure in the end.

This was as well-written and engaging as most of Henderson’s stories are, especially when I was able to set aside the knowledge of what was going to “happen next” in real life, and simply enjoy the excitement of the fictional story I was reading.

I think the problem with this book was that it was a bit emotional (being written at an emotional time), and that it couldn’t decide if it should be more of a love story, like the first two in the series, or a thriller, like the O’Malley stories.

Overall, this was probably my least favorite of all of Henderson’s books I’ve read to date (although since I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of them, especially the O’Malley series, that’s really not much of a criticism), but was still a decent read.