Vengeance is mine,I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19) . Without a doubt, others will remember this verse as they read Vengeance by Donna Dawson. Unfortunately most people aren't content to leave it to the Lord to repay their wrongs. The whole story in this murder mystery grows from ultimate acts of vengeance committed by men who were victims of great atrocities. The hurt had festered deep in the hearts of these men, fed by the hatred of those who had wronged them and their families. In fact, the main evil doings went back as far as the Vietnam War, so from childhood the mastermind of the assassins had patiently planned his ultimate revenge, a revenge that he felt fit the crimes.
FBI agent James Kirk Benedict has just completed a hard case, rescuing a little girl who was traumatized by a kidnapper who abused her while she was in his custody. The case is still fresh on his mind, and he still has some paperwork to finish before putting it to rest. But it's time for his vacation, so he takes the paperwork with him on a cruise ship bound for Hawaii. Benedict looks forward to finishing it quickly so that he can make the most of this vacation and relax a bit. It isn't long, however, until other guests on the ship start dying: horrible, quick, painful deaths that leaves their skin and organs in turmoil even after they are dead. Is it a plague of some sort? Is it contagious? Benedict finds himself investigating a series of horrific deaths that cause concern for every passenger on the ship. Including himself.
Meanwhile, his girlfriend Julie, a psychologist working with the FBI, is patiently and prayerfully working with the victim of the kidnapping, trying to bring her back to “normal” after the ordeal she has suffered. It's a heart-breaking and delicate case, but at least she is able to discuss some of it with James when he makes his nightly call to her. Of course, James' news disturbs Julie. Her concern for James makes it more difficult to concentrate on the needs of the little girl, but the great thing is that the parents are worried enough to let Julie talk about God with her young patient. Julie knows that the most complete healing is only possible if God is part of the cure.
Vengeance is a murder mystery that fits the bill for anyone interested in such stories. A warning for younger readers and their parents: there is lots of gory and ugly details of the ravages of the poison that the victims come in contact with. In this case the sordid details are integral to the story, but be forewarned. While we are privy to the thoughts and motives of the main murderer from the beginning of the novel, he is not revealed until near the end of the book. I was a bit surprised by the revelation, even more so by his accomplice. Suffice it to say that there are enough red herrings and tidbits of information scattered throughout the book to make me change my mind several times about who I thought was the culprit.
Within the main story are a few others, a nice twist that keeps it all interesting. There is the romance between James and Julie. It is refreshing to read about a romance that is pure as these to devout Christians display a dedication to the principles of Christ in their relationship. Then there is the case of the little girl that Julie is actively engaged in. She becomes more emotionally involved than she should be as a professional, but her faith in God plays an important role.
The reader is introduced to a lot of nasty history from the Vietnam War, a side of the war that adversely affected untold numbers of allied soldiers and civilians. While we cannot condone the cruel acts of revenge enacted, as frail humans ourselves we can understand what led him to such lengths.
Overall, Vengeance is a mystery novel that will hold your attention and possible make you think about a few issues, both spiritually and mentally. It has a sense of humor that breaks the tension now and then (like the fact that our hero was named James Kirk after the Star Trek captain). It is well worth reading, especially on these snowy days when so many people are stuck at home.
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