Book Specs: Soon After (Urban Christian) September 2010
Author: Sherryle Kiser Jackson
Summary: Someone set fire to Harvest Baptist Church on Easter Sunday, according to Chief Herbert Rich, the fire chief and reporter Alexis Montgomery. The suspected arsonists are even more surprising: Pastor Abe Townsend, the new pastor and former Pastor Willie Green, who left the church and took some of the congregation with him when he married and merged with Pastor Vanessa Green of formerly Pleasant Baptist Church. The church has been renamed Pleasant Harvest Baptist Church, and there’s the rub. Did this name change and loss of flock set two churches against one another? Or is someone else, seeking to harm them both, the culprit?
Rating Breakdown: My rating is derived from 5 elements-in my opinion- make up a great story. Each element gets 1 point regulated to them. If the story satisfies all elements it will receive 5 choirs.
On to Soon After Review…
1. Character .75
Alexis point of view began this story. However, it ended with Willie’s. So I wondered was the prologue necessary, since the story arc wasn’t revolved around her, but Willie.
Willie’s story arc is quite nice. He is a transitioning pastor into a new church, a new husband. There are many new things happening to him. How he navigates it all, while dealing with his past at Harvest Baptist makes him a believable and likeable character. I immediately like him, which is very good. Readers will continue reading a story and the series, if the main character has their heart. Kudos to Jackson for Pastor Willie Green.
Vanessa and Willie’s point of view showed why in Jackson’s first novel of the series(Soon and Very Soon) that they were meant to be together.
2. Plot .5
Alexis’ zeal to meet with Willie at the story opener challenges the plot of this story, and thus, the credibility it. A phone interview with him would have sufficed. I did like how Jackson tried to update new readers of this series with Alexis’ questioning. However, again, this added more plot challenges. Alexis request to embargo Green’s story. Unfortunately, in this current news climate of social media citizen journalism news stations rarely make embargo agreements on this type of story.
On another note, the first novel in the series wasn’t a mystery. It was a romance. This is the first time I read a series, whereby the genre changed. Although I love to read both romance and romantic suspense, I prefer the entire series to be one genre. (i didn’t deduct any points from plot because of this preference.)
The romcom subplot wasn’t necessary. It unbalanced the romance and suspense elements.
The red herrings were understandable, but the arsonist found at the end, weakened the plot. All the clues should come together here, but more importantly the story theme arc should meet here, but it does not. There is no clear resolution to the Willie’s conflict with his past here.
3. Setting/Theme Relevance .5
Very little setting to ground the reader. Setting is important in a mystery novel. I did enjoy learning about the Pleasant Harvest Baptist Church pastor’s study and its relevance and richness to Vanessa’s life. With a story centered around church arson I was hoping for more conversations about church iconography and African-American church architectural history. Southern Black Baptist Church masons have a rich history. BTW It would have been a great plot devise to hide clues.
4. Style/Grammar .5
There were a few awkward sentence structures, dead paragraphs, a lot of passive voice for a mystery novel, and tense shifts within sentences that caused me to pause and re-read. When a reader has to step out of the story to get the story then you have style elements that need to be addressed.
5. Voice & Dialogue .75
Jackson did a balanced job of creating dialogue. Unfortunately, there was one line of conversation between Alexis and Willie that didn’t sit with me, because of my own experience as a journalist, which was more a plot issue.
However, overall, I’m still waiting for Jackson’s voice to shine in this story. What is the big message of this story? The takeaway wasn’t big enough to haunt or change me long after.
Total Rating 3 Choirs
Who is this book suited for? Christian fiction readers, church book clubs, african-american, romantic suspense readers, readers who like to read clean fiction.