Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Measure of Grace from "The Grace Painter"

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to author Mark Romang's novel, The Grace Painter.  It is a beautiful story of tragedy followed with that silver lining called grace.  I think I'll let the story speak for itself.  Onto the summary.

The Grace Painter Book Summary:
Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is the one reflecting back at you from inside a mirror. Matthew London can attest to this difficult truth. Ever since the former NYPD hostage negotiator changed his identity and fled New York City for the backwaters of Louisiana, regret has ruled his life.

For eight years London has lived like a hermit in a declining plantation house. Only his talent for painting Renaissance-style murals and paintings keeps the inner-demons from totally destroying him. Each day the disgraced hostage negotiator longs for a chance at redemption, never expecting it to actually happen. But then a down-on-her-luck FBI agent shows up on his doorstep one evening. It turns out Jean-Paul and Sebastian Boudreaux, two local brothers famous for lawlessness have inadvertently kidnapped a little girl.

London is quickly thrust into the starring role of a daring rescue attempt. But before he can rescue the child from the dangerous Boudreaux brothers, he first must find a way to forgive himself for a past misstep, a blunder that forever altered his once promising life. But in the Atchafalaya Basin swampland, nothing is promised. Grace cannot be purchased or earned. It can only be given.

My Review:
After witnessing the gruesome murder/suicide of his former partner and family, New York police negotiator, Matthew London, has nothing left.  Taking on the name of Jon Rafter, London escapes New York and lives off the grid as a Louisiana crawfisherman in a dilapidated southern plantation house.  All hours of the day and night he paints murals on the walls and ceilings by candlelight like a modern day Michelangelo in his own Sistine Chapel.  His world may be full of darkness, but his painting reflects the growing light of his tortured soul.

Annie Crawford is one tough, kick-butt FBI agent - but she also has a past that is rapidly catching up to her.  A little girl has been kidnapped by the notorious Boudreaux brothers, and everyone in the Atchafalaya Basin knows the Boudreaux clan is one dastardly family with whom they don't want to cross paths.  Annie's worst nightmares are rekindled as she sets off to rescue the girl from a fate she barely survived herself. 

And all as Hurricane Vera sets its eye upon the Louisiana coast.

When Annie's badly beaten body is left practically on Jon's doorstep, their paths are set together to do what they can to infiltrate the Basin and find the cabin where the Boudreaux's have taken their hostage.  That is IF they survive the triple-digit windforce, storm surge, and spawned tornadoes from Hurricane Vera.

The opening scene of this novel was heartbreaking to read.  You could immediately appreciate why Matthew/Jon goes underground to escape his pain.  As we jump ahead eight years to Louisiana, we see how people each have a right and wrong choice to make and how those with whom they surround themselves can easily lead them toward and over the cliff.  The action ratchets up and doesn't stop, with layer after layer of problems and bad choices presenting themselves in the midst of dangerous circumstances.

I'm really trying not to tell you too much!

The story moves very quickly all through the approaching hurricane and leading into its impact.  The hurricane's presence really upp'ed the tension and the stakes for all of the players in the game.

Speaking of players, the main complaint I had with The Grace Painter was the presence of too many cast members.  At times it got rather jumbled with so many varying characters who didn't seem to have a whole lot to do with the main storyline.  And this leads me to my only other complaint.

After the hurricane and aftermath of tying up all of the circumstances, it really got bogged down in the minutia.  The main character of Matthew/Jon was absent for about the last third of the book until the very end.  What happened to him was really pretty unbelievable, but miracles do happen.  Then it all felt at times very dragged out and then too rushed, like important scenes were merely skipped over then referenced later on in the push to just finish the book.  It made what had been a very enjoyable read up to that point a little disappointing.

That said, I would still recommend The Grace Painter.  It read pretty quickly and kept my pulse going through the majority of it.  As far as I remember too, it didn't contain offensive language, which is sometimes hard to come by in a good thriller/suspense.  I feel comfortable recommending for teens and adults.

Mark Romang's Bio:
I was born in 1967. Avid reader, suspense novelist, faithful husband, baffled father, factory worker, reformed head-banger, failed musician, contact sports lover, MMA enthusiast, distressed KC sports fan, Lord of the Rings geek, workout fiend, dog owner, nature lover, proud American, disgruntled voter, pistachio addict, caffeine-riddled, screw-up saved by grace, sojourner. This is me in a nutshell.

You can find Mark at  Follow the Tribute Books blog tour at:

Price/Format: $0.99 ebook
Pages: 303
Publisher: self-published
Release: November 26, 2012

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  1. D A, I'm so glad you enjoyed Mark's book. Thanks for the review :)

    1. It really was a neat story - and I wanted so bad to "visit" the plantation house and those paintings.