Faithful Unto Death by Stephanie Jaye Evans (Berkley, 2012) is a contemporary amateur detective mystery set in one of the planned communities outside Houston, Texas. Protagonist Walker “Bear” Wells is a former University of Texas starting football guard and now a Church of Christ minister. Football and religion are not unusual in Sugar Land: the priest at the area Catholic Church played for Notre Dame.
When Graham Garcia is found dead early one morning on the local golf course, the police learn from his wife Honey that the victim had a meeting with Bear a few days earlier. They want to know what the meeting was about; Bear is reluctant to tell them that Graham wanted to divorce his wife because he knows it will come as a shock to her. Honey is the much-loved only daughter of a rowdy oil baron, who incurs police suspicion, as does his teenage grandson, who Bear is stunned to learn is seeing his own 14-year-old daughter. Reports of questionable dealings at the victim’s law firm produce more names of people who would have been glad to see him silenced for good, resulting in a nice assortment of suspects.
The police detective in charge of the case repeatedly warns Bear to stay out of the investigation but Bear always has a good reason to talk to one or another of the witnesses who could be the murderer, but he can’t believe it of any of them. This part of the story is handled especially well. Too often amateur detectives involve themselves in police probes on a gossamer-thin pretext. Bear ends up identifying the perpetrator by accident while on one of his fact-finding missions.
Families are important in this book, traditional families and blended families and adoptive families. How they meet their commitments to each other and how those commitments come to exist in the first place are key motivators for several of the characters. Bear, who is perceptive in some ways and clueless in others, is one of those characters. He makes the common mistake of expecting his second daughter to be exactly like his first one and making him recognize they are not takes more effort than I think it should have.
This book won the 2010 William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers. It was an Agatha nominee for best first novel the year it was published. There is only one sequel, which is unfortunate, as this is an immensely readable story. Recommended.
· Paperback: 344 pages
· Publisher: Berkley; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0425247732
· ISBN-13: 978-0425247730
Aubrey Hamilton © 2018
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.