Recommended: Raleigh Harmon Mysteries

the stones cry outHow would I describe the perfect novel? It would have to be a page-turner, one that would keep me up past my bedtime. I’d want a creative, twisty plot—nothing predictable, please. The characters should three-dimensional, with complex, imperfect personalities—I don’t have to like them all, but they should be people I can relate to. The book would have to be well-written (the curse of being an editor), the events significant. Finally, there should be enough romance to make me smile.

I guess you could call me a “highly selective” reader.

the rivers run dryI read a lot of books, and the vast majority fall short of my standards. Oh, they’re entertaining enough, but once I’m done, I quickly forget all about them. (That’s why I have to keep a list—I’d be forever checking out the same books otherwise.) Once in a great while, however, I come across an author who delivers everything I could ask for, and more. This time, her name is Sibella Giorello.

Randomly searching through our library’s online catalog, I came across a series of mystery books starring forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon. In various ways, she works with the FBI to solve significant crimes, all involving geological clues. There are currently seven books in this series (plus a short story) with the promise of more to come. I can’t wait.

Giorello has written a number of other books, including a series of young adult books about the same character at age 15. In these, Raleigh is a budding geologist who uses mineralogy to solve crimes. I haven’t read them yet (our library doesn’t own them), but I’m eagerly tracking them down.

How do the Raleigh Harmon Mysteries measure up to my criteria?

the moon stands stillThey are definitely page turners. I finished the most recent one at two in the morning—and I normally turn out the light by ten. Part of the attraction was that I could not figure out how the plot would turn out. Who committed the crime? Why? How can the heroine stay alive long enough to solve the mystery? And what about Jack?

I feel I know the characters—even those who play supporting roles. They struggle with baggage from their past, questions about the future, and don’t always make the best decisions. The books are “Christian,” in that Raleigh is a believer, but you’ll never see the overused phrases and superficial faith present in so many Christian novels. Rather, references are subtle but significant. Giorello goes deep, and takes us with her.

I know these are novels, but at times they read like poetic blank verse. The first volume, The Stones Cry Out, won a Christy Award. From there, they just get better. I savored the descriptions, at times reading out loud to Pete so I could share my delight in how things were phrased. I wasn’t surprised to learn that the author is a former newspaper reporter who was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

the starsIt may just be me, but I want my stories to be about things that matter. I have a hard time getting caught up in a book about every day life; I want something that goes beyond my personal experience and grips my imagination. I also enjoyed the incorporation of geology into the story lines. You don’t have to be a geologist to appreciate the references, but if you know anything about the field, you’ll be fascinated by how the clues are revealed.

Finally, there is just the right amount of romantic interest. I don’t want to go into details, as that would spoil the suspense, but let’s just say that the male characters are… intriguing. Unlike many contemporary romances, some of which are thinly disguised pornography, the relationships are not overtly physical, but rather involve personalities, and risk, and discovery. No blushing here.

I don’t often enjoy books as much as I’ve enjoyed these. Try them the next time you can set aside a block of time for a treat. I think you’ll agree.

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