Out of the Ruins: A Ben Reese Novel
Multnomah Publishers, 376 pages, $10.99
There's a rich tradition of literary mysteries of faith, and the finely crafted Ben Reese series deserves its place among them. Protagonist Ben Reese is a lonely man haunted by his wife's death and scarred by his experiences as an intelligence officer in World War II. He's now an archivist at a small Ohio university, which is the launching point for his journeys—in this case, to Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia.
When a wealthy widow suffering from multiple sclerosis is murdered and developers and the National Park Service plot ways to take her estate, Reese puts aside his academic pursuits to bring the killer to justice. Sally Wright's characters are multifaceted and believable, although the dialogue is occasionally unrelieved and the dialects can be thick.
Underlying themes are interwoven with a careful touch throughout the novel—the sanctity of life, the consequences of harboring bitterness, and the ways human avarice dictates behavior and ethics. The conclusion is jarring, but likely sets the stage for the sequel. Although this is the fourth installment in the series, Out of the Ruins and its predecessors all read well as stand-alone novels. Wright has been nominated for the prestigious Edgar by Mystery Writers of America, and readers who sample the series will quickly discover why.