Hope Is a Dangerous Place
Hope Trilogy #1
by Jim Baton
My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery, suspense
A recent transplant to the small town of Hope, Colorado, high schooler Kelsey already knows that there are certain families who hold a lot of power in town. When a journalism assignment leads her, her best friend, and the class loner to dig into the origins of the town, they find an unsolved mystery. A teenager disappeared 75 years in the past, and when the town was incorporated not long later, it was named as a memorial to her. What Kelsey discovers is that all of the towns oldest and most powerful families were potentially involved in that mystery. And someone doesn’t want the past dug up.
The prologue drew me in from the beginning, making me wonder how the premise could tie in with what was set up there. Though I found the characters a little weak, I was intrigued and wanting to know more about the mystery. And then I hit the wall at the end.
The mystery of Hope’s disappearance was a slow burn, but was interesting enough to drive the story up to a point. From almost the first point that Kelsey and Harmonie began to look into the disappearance, they were targeted in increasingly dangerous incidents. It certainly seemed like something really bad happened all those years ago.
Kelsey, unfortunately, does not make a very interesting main character. She’s all over the place in regards to Christianity. She seems to be a believer, and even has some insight for her pastor father who goes through some rough times. Yet she’s also belligerent and doesn’t seem to care about the language she uses. She also doesn’t seem like a high schooler in a lot of ways. Other characters aren’t much better–many of the male characters are chauvinistic to the point that I had to keep reminding myself this was set in 2020, not the 1990s or earlier. I think some of this might be because this book is clearly setting up the fictional town for a revival, and showing why it needs it, but it’s still strange to me.
I don’t want to seem like it’s all negative, though. Though Kelsey is the main character, there are several large side characters that I felt were stronger.
As for the wall I mentioned…the book ended right as a huge puzzle piece was going to be revealed. I felt incredibly let down, and at first thought maybe the book was just missing a few pages. Originally, I thought the story goal was not resolved at all, which is a huge no-no. Even in a series, trilogy, etc., each individual book often has its own internal story goal. I thought that goal was something that I won’t state to avoid spoilers. But I did wonder after I’d had some time away from the book if the story goal was actually something else that was resolved, albeit in a somewhat anti-climactic way. However, if that’s the case, I think it could have been written in a way to make the unresolved plot not seem like it was just about to be resolved, only for the book to end. The upside, though, is that if does leave the reader wanting more.
I know many don’t like books with such cliffhangers, but for some, just knowing it will end that way in advance can help a lot. So you’ve now been warned. At this point, it’s difficult for me to recommend the book without knowing the outcome of the trilogy. I’ll be interested to find out how the story continues when the next book comes out, and I’ll be steeling myself for another major cliffhanger.
One final note: As I touched on above, there is a decent amount of language in this book, at least for a Christian book. I know Christian authors often have to decide which way to go in this regard–I’ve had this internal debate myself. But the amount used in this book doesn’t seem like there was any uncertainty on the author’s part, and the fact that the apparently Christian main character swore quite a bit really puts me off.
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