Book: “Salvation Station” by Kathryn Schleich
Publishing Info: She Writes Press, April 2020
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from Book Publicity Services
Book Description: When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.
Review: Thank you to Book Publicity Services for sending me an ARC of this novel!
There is one particular scene in “The Silence of the Lambs” where I find myself closest to relating to Hannibal Lecter (Go with me, I promise this isn’t creepy). When Clarice Starling visits him after finding a human head in a storage space, he is being punished for goading on a fellow inmate into committing suicide. His punishment is having to sit in the dark of his cell with a televangelist station on at full blast. I’m with you, Lecter, that sounds awful. When Book Publicity Services contacted me about “Salvation Station” by Kathryn Schleich, the aspect that really stood out to me was the televangelist preacher who may be putting his faith into the wrong person. So that angle was what compelled me to read and review the book, even if I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t know if it was my lack of other expectations or what, but I dove into “Salvation Station” and found myself completely taken in its web.
The first aspect of this book I liked is that from the get go, we know who the bad guy is. We know that this Susannah Baker character is assuredly the same woman who was married to the murdered Reverend that our protagonist is trying to catch. So instead of writing a thriller that’s mostly whodunnit, it is instead a cat and mouse tale in which you are desperate to know if Susannah is going to exposed as the conniving murderer that we know her to be. Schleich is pitch perfect in making the villain a character you love to hate. She is so venomous and so calculating that I found myself just ACHING for her to get what was coming to her. The pious woman of God act is both extra maddening, but it also rang super true in that unfortunately there have been plenty of con artists who have abused people’s faith in order to make them victims. We don’t get as much of an insight into Ray, the televangelist who is taken in by Susannah’s flattery and supposed born-again life, but that perhaps that was the point. At the end of the day he’s a guy who is devoted to the idea of devoted and pious wives, and so Susannah knew exactly how to play him like a harp. Perhaps it’s a greater commentary on the evangelical culture, but that’s not my business. Ultimately, Susannah is the center of this part of the story, and she is pitch perfect in her psychopathy. She is THE WORST.
On the flip side of this cat and mouse game is Linda, a tenacious Nebraska police captain who is on Susannah’s trail. Linda was horrified to find a local reverend and his two children buried in a garden, and has made it her mission to track down his wife, who they have deemed responsible. Linda was also a great character to follow, as she is the perfect foil to Susannah who is driven by the need for justice. You get the feeling that this case is a little personal to her, and as we get to see her own background and the things she’s been through she makes all the more sense in her choices and motivations. I also really enjoyed the steps that we take to see her investigate while we see Susannah laying out her new traps. It served as a satisfying juxtaposition, and made me want to read quicker and quicker to see how it was all going to play out. Plus, she has a fun relationship with another investigator that doesn’t overtake her story, but adds some fun spice to it.
There was one issue that I had with this book, though it’s a nit pick to be sure as it’s just a single moment. Still, it left enough of a bad taste in my mouth that I wanted to address it here. At one point Linda is musing about the kind of woman who could kill her own children, and she draws comparisons to both Susan Smith and Andrea Yates. Smith is apt to be sure, but I really wasn’t happy that Yates was mentioned, as she was in a post-partum psychotic break when she drowned her five children in the bathtub. She wasn’t a psychopath, she was severely, SEVERELY mentally ill. As horrific as her actions were, and they were HORRIFIC, it wasn’t a fair comparison.
Overall, I really liked “Salvation Station”! Fans of the hunt in a thriller novel really need to give it a go, I think you will find lots to like!
Rating 8: A fun and complex thriller that addresses the dangers of blind faith and the lengths greed will go, “Salvation Station” was a great read.
“Salvation Station” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think that it would fit in on “Con Men, Gamblers, and Hustlers”.
Find “Salvation Station” at your library using WorldCat!