The following book reviews are a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.
Sandra Brannan is definitely an author to follow and read. Although still generally unknown she has written a series of five books, with all the novels having a very unique theme. Yet, her last two books have very compelling storylines. Incorporated within an action-packed mystery is an enduring tale that allows handicapped children to have a voice and for a few to become supporting heroes.
In the earlier books the female heroine, Liv Bergen, a manager of a Limestone mine, investigates, along with law enforcement, the killings of those close to her. Every book in the series showcases either a friend, employee, or family member involved in a murder. The second and third books in the series take her on a journey of changing professions as she attempts to clear the names of those close to her.
The latter books have Liv joining the FBI after deciding to fulfill the wishes of her friend, FBI agent Lisa Henry, killed while investigating a case.
She commented to blackfive.net, “The best friend in my life was an FBI agent who talked to me about his cases. I based veteran agent Streeter Pierce on him although the name Streeter came from my late bloodhound dog. Book two in the series was written after my friend gave me his point of view, the way an FBI agent would think. It is based on his experiences with the Sturgis South Dakota rally of hardcore motorcycle bikers. After the book came out I was asked to be a motivational speaker for law enforcement before the next rally.”
The fourth book in the series, Noah’s Rainy Day, has newly minted Special Agent Liv Bergen, racing against time, along with her FBI partners, to solve a child kidnapping, before it takes a fatal turn. What makes this storyline stand out is Liv’s nephew, Noah Hogarty, housebound with Cerebral Palsy, and dreaming of becoming a great spy or following in the footsteps of his aunt. He becomes obsessed with identifying the young face he sees watching him from his neighbor’s house. Readers may think this a little too coincidental but should realize that to incorporate Noah as a hero in the storyline Brannan had to take certain liberties. She skillfully became a voice for Noah, who is nearly blind, unable to speak, and cannot move on his own. Yet, his mind is just like any other twelve year old, and when he finds the key to the kidnapping he becomes frustrated with the inability to communicate. This plot is riveting and fast moving as the reader becomes intricately involved while rooting for Noah to become the hero and Liv to solve the case.
Brannan noted, “Angels rising as warriors. One of my nephews is mentally challenged. My other sister has a child with severe cerebral palsy. I hoped in Noah’s Rainy Day he was seen as someone trapped in his own body but has extreme intelligence. These children do not see themselves as handicapped since it is the only life they have ever known. I want people to understand they are not invisible. I incorporated into the scenes some of my personal relationship with my nephew. I would take my nephew sliding, and even took him ice skating, holding him in my arms and letting his feet touch the ground. We would communicate yes/no with his eyes and smiles. I took that relationship with my nephew and had Liv treat Noah that exact same way. I also was influenced by Rick Hoyt who has severe Cerebral Palsy yet has participated in thirty Boston Marathons and six “Ironmans.” Rick’s brother, Russell, taught him to communicate through a knuckle discussion. I thought that brilliant and incorporated it in my book. I used all of these techniques for Noah. I think the scenes worked so well because Liv had that ‘motherly instinct.’ It made the scenes believable.”
The next book, her latest, Solomon’s Whisper, is a fictional version of real cold cases involving abused children who were brutally murdered including Liv’s niece, Brianna Keller, and Rebecca Douglas who brings to mind Jon Benet Ramsey. As the investigation progresses this storyline takes many twists and turns since it appears a vigilante is on the loose, murdering all the children killers. Brannan does a great job throughout the storyline emphasizing the moral issue of vigilantes and their desire to make sure children killers get their due. A quote in the book emphasizes this, “My heart weighed heavy from suffering children.” She again embodies those children who are dismissed in society, this time highlighting a forty-year-old mentally handicapped man who has the mind of a teenager, Stewart Casey. The plot is very engrossing when Liv and the team’s investigation deepens, finding that many of the murderers have also met with brutal deaths mimicking the way in which the children were killed.
All of Sandra Brannan’s books delve into the emotional reasons behind the case. With thrilling endings, great storylines, as well as fabulous character development readers will stay up late to finish the books. In her last two books she included unique heroes, those children with special needs. Once someone reads one of these novels they will want to read the whole series since these are not typical crime novels but are a welcome change.
As a side note Sandra Brannan will be participating in the Military Book Fair on November 8th in San Diego at the USS Midway. She has a personal stake in this since so many of her relatives have served: Grandpa WWI army, Dad WWII and Korean War, Husband Vietnam Vet (purple heart recipient), sister Army, and a nephew, a Marine who fought in the Iraq War.