Blog readers may remember this post, where I talked about meeting Barbara Kreger Washburn, the author of The Hiding Place. I mentioned in that post that I would try to post a review when I'd finished reading the book; happily, the author e-mailed me the other day and reminded me that I'd said that, because with the end of the school year and several family appointments and events, my promise to post a review had slipped my mind.
I want to begin with one small disclaimer. I've never been a professional book reviewer; my background is in English Literature, and while I'm certainly capable of writing literary criticism it wouldn't be appropriate to turn the floodlights of intense literary critique on a book that is written to be enjoyed.
And The Hiding Place is meant to be enjoyed; it's the kind of book with which you may while away a pleasant summer afternoon or two, especially if you enjoy reading murder/suspense tales. I enjoyed the fact that this book was written as Christian fiction, as I once had the disappointing experience of picking up a bestselling author's newest mystery and reading less than half of it before the incessant dreariness of the repetitive and unimaginative use of four-letter words throughout the dialog, and the explicitly immoral scenes of the protagonist's life, became too much for me. When I read a book for fun I don't want to have to use a mental Sharpie marker to obliterate all the nasty words and references, and I give Barbara Washburn full credit for not compromising her Christian faith in writing a tale of intrigue and suspense.
I can't tell you too much about the plot without ruining it, as is true with any mystery story. But the action of the novel follows a few years in the life of Amanda White, who moves to the town of Eureka Springs in the Ozark Mountains in an attempt to escape the pain of an abusive, failed marriage. Will Eureka Springs become a place of peace and tranquility and new beginnings, or does a nightmare even worse than her troubled past await Amanda here?
There are a few 'glitches' in The Hiding Place, which I suspect is something that could be said with honesty about any new author's first book. But I'd like to mention something which I think is a real strength for Barbara Washburn, and it is her obvious love for Eureka Springs, and the attention to detail and vivid, lively descriptions of the place itself. She uses lots of local color to make the places in her book seem real, and pays careful attention when she is describing a place or town feature which actually exists. Many times as she followed her fictional characters down a colorful street or into an interesting local attraction, I found myself thinking that I'd like to visit Eureka Springs; despite the sometimes-sinister subject matter of the book, Barbara manages to make the setting seem charming and innocent, making Eureka Springs an interesting contrast to the turmoil in the lives of her characters, especially Amanda.
Barbara now has a blog, and she mentions that she and her husband are at work on another thriller, set on a cruise ship. I'd personally love for her to write another book set in Eureka Springs, especially if it were a murder mystery set in the town's Victorian past, which would allow her to put her love for the town and her extensive knowledge of its past to work.