Always on the lookout for outstanding Christian novels, I was intrigued when I found Someone to Blame, a work of contemporary fiction by fantasy novelist C.S. Lakin. Its title and back cover synopsis were enough to draw me in...
Following the crushing losses of both their teenage sons, Matt and Irene Moore move with their daughter, 14-year-old Casey, to a small coastal Northwest town. In doing so, they hope to leave behind plaguing, guilt-ridden memories. Instead, trouble seems to follow them - trouble, most specifically, in the form of a young man named Billy Thurber, a drifter with a questionable past. His behavior provokes suspicion and anger from all those he meets - with one notable exception. Casey, hurting and impressionable, falls instantly under his spell. But her infatuation is no protection against the town's rising resentment, tilting toward murderous intent.
From first page to last, Someone to Blame shines. It contains neither sugar-coating nor preaching - only real-life drama lived out by ordinary characters made extraordinary by circumstance. Lakin introduces high conflict in the opening chapters and sustains page-turning tension without ever becoming melodramatic. Her complex interweaving of plotlines builds toward a satisfying conclusion, and though she has more POV characters than I've seen in a long time, each is credible, not cardboard. Best of all, the spiritual takeaway doesn't knock you over the head; instead, it blooms naturally from the story.
I liked this story so much, in fact, that after reading a borrowed copy from the library, I ordered my own from Amazon - which is where I learned that for this stand-alone, Lakin won the Zondervan First Novel contest at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. It's a well-deserved distinction. I found Someone to Blame one of the most compelling works of Christian fiction in recent memory - worthy of belonging in anyone's personal library.