Salvation Station

by Kathryn Schleich

 

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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 pyjamas, 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.

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. Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.

First impressions are important. We judge books by their covers, and in this case, the cover doesn’t do the book any favours. It looks professional enough but, for me, it doesn’t fit the genre. It looks like a horror novel, dark, with a creepy doll on the front. Yet ‘Salvation Station’ is a thriller with elements of the police procedural. OK, the cover aside, this is a fine debut. Plot – tick, Characters – tick, Writing – tick, it’s a well-handled story that could have proved difficult to pull off. There are intwined story threads, dead children, and the element of religion, all potentially tricky subjects, especially for a first-time author, but Katheryn Schleich delivers.

Susan Baker is a con artist, she picks out recently widowed men, gains their trust with a mixture of flirting and sympathy, and becomes a deadly associate. Her latest target is Reverend Ray Williams, a televangelist from St Louis, Missouri. Ray and his colleagues are working on ‘The Road to Calvary’ TV show, a religious programme that is flagging and about to be cut. Then Susan Baker asks for a word. She has a proposition for Ray, one that she says if a message from God. Ray is left conflicted. He has a chance to save his show, but it’s not exactly ethical.

Can Susan get Ray to prey on the sick and lonely, performing fake miracles, if it ultimately helps spread the word (and make a little money at the same time)?

This whole business (literal and metaphorical) escalates. Ray is made aware that some people are repeatedly making large donations and he know something is seriously wrong, but he is caught up in his newfound success and attraction to Susan, a dangerous killer with an ability to change her appearance.

The book’s sleuth is Police Captain Linda Turner of Lincoln, Nebraska, who has been alerted to the discovery of several bodies in a parsonage garden, a family thought to have left the area – and one of them, the children’s mother, is missing.

Turner is a dogged cop, the job is her life, and as this case involves the murder of a pastor and his two children, you can be sure she’ll stop at nothing to find the killer. Her investigation leads her to another state and the corrupt religious organization as the storylines merge.

Linda has to con the conner and work with local detective Malachi, who becomes the love interest. The power of organised religion and themes of manipulation are explored in an exciting read that was ultimately better than I expected. Recommended.

 

 

About Kathryn Schleich:

Kathryn Schleich is an author, feminist and activist in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Metro area. She champions youth literacy and press rights.