New Mystery-Thriller from LaPuerta Books Mixes Murder and Metaphysics

April 30, 2019   Business News
(PRLEAP.COM) The "amateur sleuth" is a familiar subgenre of crime fiction. But how about a lapsed minister who got his investigative skills studying theoretical physics and then tracking down people who've defaulted on their car loans? Set in the farmland of Southern Missouri, Preacher Finds a Corpse by Gerald Everett Jones mixes murder and metaphysics. The locals call Evan Wycliff "Preacher" because he sometimes gets gigs as a guest minister at the First Baptist Church of Appleton City.

But in his personal life, Evan is going through what theologians call the dark night of the soul. Shrinks call it depression. Evan has already lost both his mother and his fiancé to sudden, unexpected deaths. Then, in the opening sentence of this novel, he finds his best friend Bob Taggart shot dead a in cornfield.
It looks like suicide.

And here's another way Preacher Finds a Corpse bends its genre: It might not be a question of who murdered Bob - but who drove him to do it, and why?

The local sheriff doesn't seem curious enough to pursue the question. After the case is officially closed, Evan continues to search for the truth. He figures he's the only one in town who cares what really happened. Bob's widow stands to gain control of some valuable property. The complications mount as Evan learns his friend was involved in a dispute over farmland ownership that goes back two centuries - complicated now by plans to make an old weapons facility into a tourist attraction.

Advance book reviewers have been impressed by Preacher's authentic sense of place. Jones admits the area around Appleton City is his ancestral home. Here his grandfather taught him to hunt and fish. Paula Berinstein, author of the Amanda Lester detective series, says Jones's "command of setting, history and behavior is beyond exceptional." Marvin J. Wolf, author of the Rabbi Ben mystery series, agrees: "Carefully yet powerfully, Gerald Jones creates a small, stunning world in a tiny midwestern town, infusing each character with not just life but wit, charm and occasionally menace."

And then there are the religious and spiritual questions surrounding the act of suicide. At first, mystery fans might not think there's much for the Preacher to investigate. But, for the backsliding minister, beliefs about what happens to human souls after death trigger more questions than answers.

Ruth Golden is a survivor of parental suicide who has become a spokesperson on these issues. Having read Preacher, she comments: "The events and people around Bob Taggart's apparent suicide really illustrate the ripple effect these deaths have in communities and how many people are deeply affected beyond the immediate family. Many of the common stigmas, questions and feelings suicide deaths leave in their wake are also addressed in a responsible way, which will help the conversation around suicide in general." (Golden is writer-producer of the documentary Talking About Suicide with Mariette Hartley and the forthcoming movie, The Silent Goldens, about coping with the loss of her mother.)

Jones describes his protagonist this way: "Evan's investigative mind keeps asking questions, whether about cosmology and the Big Bang or when or whether to pull the plug on a suffering patient here on Earth. He's thinking he will reset his doubts when he drops out of graduate school to return home, but that's where the Angel of Death catches up with him."

Bottom line, how will book fans receive a new mystery series fraught with philosophy as well as crime solving? Wolf, whose popular A Scribe Dies in Brooklyn might be a comparable title, believes, "[Preacher] is literature masquerading as a mystery. This is the kind of writing one expects from John Irving or Jane Smiley." John Rachel, author of Blinders Keepers and The Man Who Loved Too Much is also enthusiastic about Evan Wycliff's debut: "This is an excellent read from such an engaging storyteller! It really sucked me in. That last page did cause a triple-take, quadruple-take, and whatever comes after, up to about eight. Jones is definitely one of my favorite authors."

Preacher Finds a Corpse: An Evan Wycliff Mystery is the first in a series. This is the eighth novel from Gerald Everett Jones, whose opus includes Bonfire of the Vanderbilts and Choke Hold: An Eli Wolff Thriller. The first Preacher mystery will be released in English from booksellers worldwide in trade paperback and ebook formats on August 12, 2019. The retail paperback price is $15.99, and the Kindle and EPUB editions are priced at $6.99.

Advance review copies are currently available to the trade on NetGalley.com, and book bloggers and fans who want to post early reviews can get courtesy ebook copies at ProlificWorks.com.

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