Sunday, May 20, 2018
Books

Review: Michael Lister mystery, set in Panhandle, has plenty of authenticity

John Jordan picks the wrong place to find a little peace and quiet.

Blood Sacrifice is Michael Lister's fifth novel about the former cop turned prison chaplain, and as it opens, Jordan is on retreat at St. Ann's, an idyllic rural abbey in Florida's Panhandle. He's there to recover from the breakup of his marriage and the stress of becoming involved, despite his best intentions, in the investigation of crimes — a compulsion he wants to leave behind.

No such luck. Out for a walk, he comes upon first responders gathered around the body of a young man pulled from a bay — whom he recognizes as a teen being treated at St. Ann's. As he feels that old investigative impulse rise, things get worse.

First Jordan and the local sheriff find a cabin awash in blood. Then in nearby woods they find another patient at the abbey, a wild young woman named Tammy Taylor, dead. Next to her body is Father Thomas, the abbey's longtime priest, bloodied and unconscious.

When he comes around, Father Thomas assures them he's innocent. He was performing an exorcism on Tammy, at her request, he says — and the demon killed her.

Blood Sacrifice won a silver medal for popular fiction in the 2012 Florida Book Awards, and Lister, a Florida native, gives his setting plenty of authentic detail. He weaves current issues in the Panhandle into the story as well — Tammy's powerful family made its fortune manufacturing paper, but now wants to transform its vast land holdings from tree farms to subdivisions and resorts, whether other residents like it or not.

Jordan's status as a chaplain is unusual for a fictional detective, and it's interesting to see him grappling with just what to believe about a subject such as exorcism. Blood Sacrifice gives him a full roster of suspects to sort out once he gives in to his desire to solve the case, and some surprising twists on the way to the solution.

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