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Book Cover Image: Tandem by Tracey BatemanTitle: Tandem

Author: Tracey Bateman

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Six months ago, brutal murders shook the small Ozark town—murders that stopped after a house fire reportedly claimed the killer’s life. Lauryn McBride’s family auction house has taken responsibility for the estate sale of one of the victims—the enigmatic Markus Chisom. Submerging herself in Chisom’s beautiful but strange world, Lauryn welcomes the reprieve from watching Alzheimer’s steal her father from her, piece by piece. She soon realizes that centuries-old secrets tie Abbey Hills to the Chisom estate and a mysterious evil will do anything to make sure those secrets stay hidden. Even the man who grew up loving her may not be able to protect Lauryn from the danger.

When Amede Dastillon receives an unexpected package from Abbey Hills, she hopes it might be the key in tracking down her beloved sister, long estranged from her family. Visiting Abbey Hills seems the logical next step in her search, but Amede is unusually affected by the town, and when mutilated carcasses begin turning up again in the small community, the local law enforcement isn’t sure if they are confronting a familiar evil or a new terror.

Two women brought together by questions that seem to have no answers. Can they overcome the loss and darkness threatening to devour them—or will their own demons condemn them to an emotional wasteland?”

Thoughts: Lesson learned – always do your due diligence on a book before reading it. Why? Because it is essential to avoid being shocked by such things as the inclusion of vampires in a novel. How I missed this essential plot point in all of the descriptions I read, I am uncertain, but miss it I did. Because it was, to me, unexpected, I found it to be rather distracting. It actually took me quite a few pages to get over my shock and dismay because I felt that this was a story that could quite as easily have been told without vampires. Even worse, I missed the fact that this is Christian fiction too. (Apparently, the descriptions I have been reading are sorely lacking in details.) This was not quite as upsetting because the idea of redemption was discussed coherently and inclusively without becoming preachy.

Take those two aspects out of the novel, and one is left with an interesting discussion on the impact of aging parents and idea of bad versus good. Given the Baby Boomers and younger generations that are facing the care of this aging generation, the subject matter is quite timely. Ms. Bateman discusses the heartache, confusion and guilt that accompany such scenarios with grace and heartfelt sympathy. Through Lauryn, the reader is able to get a clear picture of what such scenarios entail and how difficult they can be for all parties.

Tandem is definitely a more character-driven plot. The mystery itself is not too scary or suspenseful as the reader is drawn to Lauryn’s and Amede’s individual relationships with their loved ones. Because it is so easy to identify and sympathize with both main characters, the mystery takes a back seat to their anguish and struggles. As they learn to find happiness among sorrow and balance among life’s demands, the reader is there to cheer them on their path to discovery.

Of even more interest is the idea that no one is really bad but rather in need of help is an intriguing one. Even the “bad guy” has a tragic back story that causes his turmoil and subsequent actions. This idea promotes the idea of redemption even more forcefully because if no one is truly bad, then everyone can be redeemed. It is one of the more hopeful, more peaceful messages I’ve read in a long time.

Overall, Tandem is an enjoyable novel. Once I got over my initial shock, I thoroughly enjoyed life in Abbey Hills and the small-town drama that ensues. Lauryn and Amede are both strong female characters who learn lessons that everyone should adopt. Its message of redemption is simple but beautiful. While not for everyone, Tandem finds a way to take its eclectic mix of genres (vampires and Christianity co-existing?) and make it work to its advantage.

Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reader program for this review copy!

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