Why did Karen Webb abandon her husband and newborn baby?Is it coincidence that she disappeared just one dayafter irreplaceable Anasazi Indian artifacts were stolenfrom the University of New Mexico Museum of Art andAnthropology? When Boston-based security consultantDesiree Jacobs is called to the scene, her FBI agentboyfriend, Tony Lucano, warns her not to play amateursleuth. When he joins her in Albuquerque on thecopyrighted property pirating case that he s assigned to,it becomes obvious that their cases are connected.And the popular media ministry, The Inner Witness, hasmore than a little something to do with them. Desi andTony are scrambling to connect the dots and figure outhow Karen fits into the picture if its not too late tosave her. When the horrifying truth comes to light,can they even save themselves?
The latest in Jill Elizabeth Nelsons unique To Catch a Thief series, Reluctant Runaway continues the legacy of her spirited heroine, Desiree Jacobs. Owner of an art museum security company, Desiree has a knack for landing herself in sticky situations. Her latest caper and a southwestern wind combine to sweep Desi from her cherished Boston to arid New Mexico, where, much to her FBI boyfriend Tony Lucanos chagrin, she tackles religious fanatics, drug dealers, and murderers.
When her best friend and employee Maxine Webbs niece Karen disappears from her Albuquerque home, do-or-die Desiree is determined to help. By the time Desi reaches New Mexico, however, the mystery has already deepened. Suspicious evidence surrounding Karens disappearance leaves local authorities dubious of Karens innocence. Is she really the victim of a dangerous cult? Or is she on the run after robbing the prominent Santa Fe museum where she worked? The lines of truth twist further when Tonys organized crime case leads him after the same bad guys Desi is tracking.
With characters compiled from casts ranging from a biker gang to pueblo Indians to White House employees, Reluctant Runaway pops with color and life from start to finish. Desis lively spirit and courageous (yet tender) heart make her a well-rounded and likeable heroine, while Tonys self-possession and private manner set him as a perfect contrast to his leading lady. Their differences provide for chemistry and tension which Nelson skillfully interweaves with her novels action points. Though at times their quarrels seem over-written, their struggle to find a balance between Tonys over-protectiveness and Desirees risk-taking actions is a very real one. Some of her secondary characters, such as Texan Maxine Webb, seem less realistic, but add diversity to the story.
The spiritual component of Nelsons book is nothing if not unique. Tackling themes rarely dealt with in Christian fiction, Reluctant Runaway deals with cult activity and darker spiritual themes. Her handling of these issues reveals her as an honest writer unafraid to deal with the seedier side of life. An accurate portrayal of the dangerous reality of cults and their seduction of the hurting and needy is a much-needed revelation regarding the threat they pose today. Nelson also hints at the spiritual warfare many other authors avoid, leaving Reluctant Runaway distinct among contemporary Christian novels.
Nelson also does a skillful job of pulling the reader into the novel with imagery and descriptions that make the story come alive. For a Minnesota author to describe so vividly the beauty and culture of New Mexico is no small feat. Reluctant Runaways colorful language, both in dialogue and description, may be its most distinguishing feature. At times, the novel is even grows overwhelming in its use of colloquialisms and clichés. On the whole, however, Nelsons clever style supplements her quirky storyline and characters.
Combining attractive heroes, a lively plot, and an excellent pace, Reluctant Runaway provides fun as well as food for thought. Those seeking an entertaining and engaging story will find themselves more than satisfied with Nelsons latest work. Lauren Peltier, Christian Book Previews.com