Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lion's Pride - Debbie Jordan

In 1911, Arizona has not yet joined the Union. Sheriff Paco Alaniz is charged with keeping order in Moon Valley. All is calm and collected until Don Santiago Castillo de Leon, the wealthiest and most hated man in Moon Valley, is murdered in his sleep. Sheriff Alaniz's investigation is not an easy one since most everyone in Moon Valley could be considered a suspect.

Meanwhile a renegade Mormon sect also lives on the outskirts of Moon Valley, and the day after Don Santiago's murder a gambler arrives in Moon Valley to help his sister escape this group. The gambler is carrying extra emotional baggage that may put both he and his sister in danger.

While this book does contain the whodunit mystery of who killed Don Santiago, the reader will likely find the mystery less important than the relationships that are present in this novel. The depth of character arising from the relationships is really what kept me turning the pages. Debbie Jordan displays a range of relationships - and conflicts - between man and wife, lovers, parent and child, human and god, man and himself, even human and animal.

None of the relationships are perfect, but some are closer than others. Sheriff Alaniz and his wife, Connie, may come the closest to a functional relationship but even they have their short comings.

Sheriff Alaniz was probably the most intriguing character for me. He's an intelligent man with an open mind. He believes in a higher power but questions some of the beliefs of his organized religion. And I think Jordan's ultimate message with Alaniz is that it is o.k. to have those questions, and even to act on those questions. I also enjoyed Alaniz's elementary investigation techniques. It is intriguing to see the birth of some of the modern "fancy" techniques used in science today.

The Sheriff's wife, Connie, is also a fun character in this novel. She is a strong female but she doesn't use that strength to over-power her husband. Instead, she uses it to stand equally alongside him. She is definitely the foil to Don Santiago's wife, Margarita, in the monogamous marriage. However, there is also a third leg to the dynamics of the female role in this novel and that third leg involves the wives in the polygamous sect.

This was an enjoyable book for me for several reasons. First being my enjoyment of character development. This is definitely a character-driven novel. And because it is character-driven, the pace is slower. I had been reading quite a few fast-paced, action-oriented, plot-driven novels; it was nice to have a break from that pace.

The element to be aware of in this novel is that there are themes related to religion in this novel. It is not at all "preachy" or evangelical but religion does play a strong role. Because I could identify with some of the questions that were coming out in this element of the book, I felt it added a tremendous deal to the plot.

The only criticism I might offer on this novel is that some of the elements of some of the relationships ended up a bit cliche. It wasn't hard to see them coming, and those elements could have possibly been avoided altogether.

Overall, though, Lion's Pride was an enjoyable read with fun, dynamic characters.


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