FLIGHT OF THE RAVEN: Mysteries of Sparrow Island #2
Those readers who enjoyed the story of ornithologist Abigail "Abby" Stanton in WHISPERS THROUGH THE TREES will want to continue the saga with FLIGHT OF THE RAVEN, the second installment in the 14-book Mysteries of Sparrow Island series by different authors. This one is written by Ellen Harris.
In the first installment of this cozy inspirational mystery series (whose books are best read in order), we meet Abby, a former Cornell ornithologist and godly 55-year-old career woman who has made a name for herself in the birding world. After taking a sabbatical from her job to care for her widowed sister, Mary, who is wheelchair-bound after a car accident, Abigail decides to stay on the fictional Sparrow Island (just off the coast of Washington State in the real-life San Juan Islands) to live with Mary and do on-site work with birding and conservation on the island.
In book two, we find that the independent and outdoorsy Abby has settled into the quiet pace of island life, savoring the kindness of the islanders and the close, hard-won relationship with her sister. When a seaplane is thought to have gone down on one of San Juan's many islands, she teams up with her friend (and Mary's love interest) Sergeant Henry Cobb to try to rescue any survivors. While the two are hunting for the seaplane, Mary has plenty of time to ponder Henry's growing attentions to her and her own misgivings about her infirmities. Should she saddle him with a handicapped girlfriend?
FLIGHT OF THE RAVEN steps up the suspense a notch or two in comparison to WHISPERS THROUGH THE TREES. A threatened murder, a few gun-waving scenes and a struggle for short-term survival on a wilderness island won't make pulses race too much but does make this novel seem more like the mystery promised in the series title. However, it's still a cozy --- the only blood shed here is a cut that's no worse than you might get shaving.
A sweet, endearing dual plot theme of this novel is the introduction of Finnegan, a mobility assistance dog. When Mary's son Zack shows up with the golden retriever and Labrador mix pooch as a gift to her, Mary is resistant, sure that Finnegan will only create extra chaos in her life. And how will her beloved cat Blossom take to the newcomer? But, as the hours pass and Abby doesn't return from her hunt for the seaplane survivors, Mary finds herself relying on Finnegan --- and wondering if she should change her mind.
Bird lovers will appreciate the ornithological details, including Abby's work with young peregrine falcons and their release, which provide suitable metaphors for some of the themes of the story. Faith fiction fans will be glad to come across scripture references at regular intervals, particularly on anxiety and worry. Sometimes, the faith aspect seems a bit forced (as when Abby uses a lacrosse stick as a weapon, and Henry says she is "armed with the crosse."). Some nice bits of humor lighten any tension, including Abby's thoughts when she is rummaging through the wrecked plane and sees a briefcase made of animal skin, something she "was sure she'd disapprove of." Also appealing is the close-knit community of the fictitious idyllic Sparrow Island, where Abigail and Mary live close to their elderly parents (who prosaically are organic farmers who grow lavender among their other offerings) and are surrounded by good friends. As Mary and Abby's precocious little friend and neighbor Bobby says, "People here are nice."
Readers who enjoyed WHISPERS THROUGH THE TREES should find FLIGHT OF THE RAVEN just their cup of tea. And with 14 books in the series, they can anticipate reading about Abby and Mary's life on Sparrow Island for a long time to come.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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