Review: Crime, Guilt and Identity

Blind Faith by Alicia Beckman

Leslie Budewitz, writing as Alicia Beckman, presents her second non-cozy novel, a gripping story whose characters struggle with moral and religious issues and the challenges of their personal histories.

Lindsay Keller is a lawyer whose career as an assistant prosecutor was cut short by a courageous moral stand. She now practices real estate law in her hometown of Billings, Montana. One day in 2016 a wallet shows up on her desk—the wallet of Father Mike Leary, who had been her high school religion teacher in 1981 and whose murder in 1995 has never been solved. In the wallet is a picture of a young girl whom Lindsay vaguely recognizes.

Triggered by the photo, her memory flashes back to an experience 35 years earlier, at the beginning of her senior year in high school. She had made friends with Carrie, a new girl whose family had just moved to town. Lindsay walked with her to the rectory of St. Pat’s, where Carrie’s grandmother was housekeeper. Waiting for Carrie outside the rectory, Lindsay witnessed Carrie rush from the church pulling her little sister Ginger, the girl in the photo. Then Father Mike hurried after them, across the yard into the rectory. Lindsay never saw Carrie again because the family—grandmother and the two girls—left town precipitously.

The novel has many short chapters that zig-zag through time, providing the reader with a patchwork history, much of which the main characters do not know. There’s a murder back in 1972. There are the girls’ interactions with Father Mike. There’s the mysterious connection between Father Mike and Tony, the man convicted of the 1972 murder. There’s Father Mike’s murder in 1995. There’s the tragic death of Lindsay’s close friend Mary Ellen.
Chapters also connect us with Carrie, now living in Portland, Oregon. Currently, in 2016, Carrie’s grandson Asher suffers from the genetic disease cystic fibrosis. Carrie is desperate to learn about her ancestry so that Asher can get into a pilot research project.

At the third-way point of the novel the reader knows pretty the whole story. What hasn’t been related has been hinted at, although of course there are twists at the end. The bulk of the novel covers how Carrie and Lindsay pursue the threads of evil, guilt and love in the old story, searching first separately and then together. How do they discover the lies and buried secrets and how will they and Ginger react as their lives are redefined by the discoveries?

Despite the chronological complexity of the novel, the characters and their quests pull the reader along. And Beckman presents a fine picture of her home town, Billings, Montana, incorporating with poetic license much of its history and character.

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