Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Book Review: NOAH'S RAINY DAY by Sandra Brannan

Noah's Rainy Day (A Liv Bergen Mystery #4)

Title: Noah's Rainy Day
Author: Sandra Brennan
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
Read: August 04 - 12, 2013
Read an excerpt

Synopsis (Goodreads):

From birth, Noah Hogarty has lived with severe cerebral palsy. He is nearly blind, unable to speak, and cannot run, walk, or crawl. Yet his mind works just as well as any other twelve-year-old’s—maybe even better. And Noah holds a secret dream: to become a great spy, following in the footsteps of his aunt, Liv “Boots” Bergen.

Now, freshly returned from training at Quantico, FBI agent Liv Bergen is thrown into her first professional case. Working side by side with veteran agent Streeter Pierce, enigmatic agent and lover Jack Linwood, and her bloodhound Beulah, Liv must race to find five-year-old Max—last seen at the Denver International Airport—before this Christmastime abduction turns deadly. Meanwhile Noah, housebound, becomes wrapped up in identifying the young face he sees watching him from his neighbor’s bedroom window, but he can neither describe nor inscribe what he knows.

And his investigation may lead to Noah paying the ultimate price in fulfilling his dream.

Noah’s Rainy Day (the fourth novel in Brannan’s mystery series) combines classic Liv Bergen irreverence and brainpower with an unflinching look at the darkest of human motivations, all while a whirlpool of increasingly terrifying events threatens to engulf Liv and Noah both in one final rainy day.

My thoughts:

Noah Hogarty is no ordinary 12-year-old – from birth he has lived with severe cerebral palsy and is unable to walk, talk or play like other children. Highly intelligent, his inquisitive mind is trapped in his body, with only his sister Emma able to communicate with him through an ingenious but slow system of sign language they has developed. But Noah is not easily defeated - inspired by his aunt Liv Bergen, an FBI agent recently graduated from Quantico, Noah’s dream is to become a great spy. Noah thinks he has one advantage over others, which will help him reach this goal – being physically disabled he often feels invisible, as many people assume that his mind must surely be as damaged as his body, and freely say things in front of him which they wouldn’t dare voice in front of others.

When a five year old boy is abducted from Denver International Airport on Christmas Eve, Liv and her fellow FBI agents are at a loss of any useful leads, and time is fast running out. With the media being their best option at the moment, young Max’s face is being branded across all news channels, with his parents pleading for his safe return. Noah, who watches the world go by from his upstairs window, feels like he has seen that face before – but how will he be able to communicate his suspicions to the adults around him, and who will believe him?

Brannan’s very unusual hero Noah, a bright mind trapped in a damaged body, reminded me of Hitchcock’s Rear Window meeting a young Lincoln Rhyme. After witnessing a potential crime from his window, young Noah must overcome serious communication barriers to be able to voice his suspicions. Noah’s daily battles to communicate even his most basic needs were beautifully described, and show Brannan’s familiarity with CP and her heartfelt understanding of the challenges it presents for its sufferers and their families. The author also explores the stigma of physical disability, which often renders sufferers “invisible” in society, often due to others feeling uncomfortable around a person with a disability.  Being able to see the world through Noah’s eyes was very humbling in many ways, especially when Noah worries about being a burden on his parents and what the future will hold for him.

I also found Liv Bergen to be a likeable protagonist who brought her own dynamics into the story, and the details of certain aspects of the investigation (eg the search through the airport’s garbage using a grid system) were very interesting. The importance of family relationships in Brannan’s novel was refreshing, considering that a lot of protagonists of modern crime novel are loners with dark secrets in their past, condemning them to lonely lives with unfulfilled longing for love and acceptance.

The low points of the novel for me were the heavy reliance on coincidence for most of the plot and the loss of pace in the last third of the book, which could have been avoided by an unexpected development in the storyline. Giving the abductor a voice took much of the mystery away and made the outcome very predictable for me – I waited for a twist or surprise in the end, which never came.

All in all, Noah’s Rainy Day offered a refreshing new perspective and a likeable pair of protagonists, and made for an enjoyable read, even if it lacked a bit in the thrill department.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please note that the final published copy may vary from the one I reviewed.

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