The Deposit Slip


by Todd M. Johnson

published 2012

A while back, I reviewed Johnson’s second book, Critical Reaction.  I enjoyed it enough to check out his earlier book, The Deposit Slip.  Interestingly, I actually enjoyed The Deposit Slip even more – it was an excellent mystery, with some likable characters who developed well.  The court room/law scenes were written thoroughly, but not boringly, and the story was delightfully devoid of romance.  I say delightfully, because this was a story that didn’t need romance, and so it wasn’t there.  One of my (minor) gripes with Critical Reaction was that the little love story seemed so arbitrary.  It had nothing to do with the story, really, and so it kind of felt awkward, as though Johnson was just inserting it because someone told him that all good mysteries have some romance, too.  (Don’t listen to them, Johnson!)

So, this story is about Jared, a young lawyer, who is a bit on the rocks.  He’s had his own law firm for a few years, but a big case didn’t break the way he needed it to, and now he’s almost broke, and exhausted – emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  While working on that case, he neglected many of his other clients, and he knows it’s going to take months of faithful work to bring everything up to speed and back in line.  He tells himself that he’ll never take a huge-risk case like that again.

And then there’s Erin.  Her dad died several months ago.  When going through his stuff, she found a deposit slip in a safety deposit box – a deposit slip for ten million dollars.  Erin is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery – the bank denies any knowledge of the deposit, and the lawyer Erin hired has suddenly left her high and dry – short on time and money.

Jared is reluctant to take Erin’s case.  It’s another huge-risk case, it’s going to cost loads of money, and it’s going to mean spending a bunch of time in his small home-town – and that means spending time with his dad.  But something draws Jared to Erin’s case and, thankfully, that thing isn’t “mutual attraction” or any kind of romance, which is a big part of what makes this book work.

The mystery/drama of this book is great, but what sets this book apart is its themes of forgiveness, empathy, and learning to move on.  Watching the relationship between Jared and his dad change and grow was my favorite part.  Johnson writes that interaction extremely well.

I also love the way that this book is clean.  It’s not really a religious book (the church is touched on, but is not really foundational to the story), but it is completely lacking in language, sex, or anything along those lines, and it’s great.  So refreshing to read a book that is intense, focused, intriguing, and engaging, without feeling like it’s necessary to curse every other sentence, or to randomly send people into bed now and again.

Overall, this book is a solid and easy 4/5.  It would be a 5/5, except that one of the villains meets a rather over-the-top end that left me feeling legitimately confused.

Also, I’m super sleep deprived, so I apologize if this isn’t my best book review.  I liked the book!

And here’s a picture of one of my sister’s cats.  I found it when I was looking for the picture of the book.  This is Gypsy Jack.  He’s one of my favorites, and he loves paper bags.


Critical Reaction



by Todd M. Johnson

Published 2013

This book was provided to my by Bethany House free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.  And, luckily for them, I liked it!

So this is a thriller about a young attorney, Emily, who gets a desperate call from a long-lost friend, Kieran.  Kieran is in the middle of a lawsuit – he is suing his employer, a nuclear energy company because, while at work, there was an explosion and he inhaled…  something.  The company is being super sketchy about the details.  With the help of Emily’s semi-estranged father (who is also an attorney), they begin to gather evidence for their case – and find out that this whole thing is way bigger than they suspected.

Let’s be honest – I don’t know anything about nuclear energy, nuclear bombs, or anything else that begins with “nuclear.”  So I’m not going to try and review this book based on its factuality.  It read logically and that’s important to me.  What the company was doing, how they were doing it, why they were doing it – all of that made sense, so even if the science is whack (which what do I know?  Maybe it’s spot on!), the story hangs together pretty well.

However, this this whole second level involving these Native Americans and the way the nuclear energy is impacting the environment and all of these things and that part got rather fuzzy.  In the end, it seemed to distract rather than add to the plot, especially when they’re all dashing about bareback on half-wild mustangs without bridles through the desert at night.  I was actually more mentally critical of those kinds of details than I was on the nuclear stuff, although maybe that’s because I’ve spent more time on horseback than I have developing nuclear bombs.

The relationships in this book irked me a bit.  Emily and her dad have this strained relationship because he was super busy when she was little etc etc etc and then when her mom got sick and eventually died he just ignored poor Emily…  I honestly end up feeling more on the dad’s side, because he’s been working to reach out to her and show that he’s sorry for things in the past and, up until this point where she has to have his help, Emily’s been basically ignoring him.  I’m so sorry that your dad was so busy taking care of his wife whom he loved devotedly that he didn’t have time to listen to how you did on a college exam.  From my perspective, Emily seemed a bit too demanding and unforgiving as regards her dad.  Throughout the book, this whole relationship is kind of a big deal, but then it sort of fizzles out in the end and we’re left to more or less assume that the rift has been healed and all is well.

Emily and Kieran, of course, fall in love.  However, this is also just background.  There are no quiet conversations about the future, no scenes in which the characters profess to love each other, nada.  We basically know they’re in love because Emily’s dad keeps thinking I’m not sure it’s a good idea for Emily to be in love with Kieran when so much is uncertain.  It would have been nice to have just a smidge more of the love story, or to have no love story at all instead of just a vague insinuation of one.

HOWEVER I felt that this book was paced excellently.  There were definitely times when I could barely put it down.  I was reading this in tandem with The War that Ended Peace and that was working super well.  I’m way more inspired to read ten pages of non-fiction when I know another chapter of a thriller is waiting for me as a reward.  The chapters were short and snappy (my favorite kind) leaving me always thinking that I could read just one more before turning out the light.  The courtroom scenes are good.  Sometimes those can drag a bit, but these were very well done.

The author also does a good job of telling us what the “bad guys” are up to – just enough information to add to the tension.  There is also another plot line following another character who was involved in the explosion and his story also paces well.

This is a Bethany House book, but there is zero religion, other than a few desperation prayers.  No idea what the religious affiliations of these characters are.  That’s fine, and I appreciated that the Bethany House label did guarantee that this was just a good thriller with no cursing or sex – I hate it when thrillers seem to think that the only way they can build tension is by f*ing everything in sight.

Overall, this book is getting a 4/5.  I would have boosted it to a 5, but the ending was a bit of a cop-out.  There was SO MUCH BUILD UP and then whoops!  Epilogue!  Everyone’s happy.  Awww, happy feelings.  The end.  It was a very abrupt ending, and I just felt a little bit gypped after I had invested so much into the characters and their lives.  Still, the pacing was good, the story was gripping, and the whole thing a great deal of fun.