The one I recently finished is The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy. It's an enjoyable Christian suspense/mystery with a supernatural element to it. Supernatural elements appear to be a gathering trend in Christian novels.
But it does not dominate the story in this one.
In this one, the paranormal element is that the main character, the baker's wife, has the ability to physically feel other people's pain. Not everyone's pain, just the people that God intends her to help or serve in some way. So it functions as a means of God speaking to her and directing her to people who need His help.
It elevates the notion that pain is a gift (see Phillip Yancy and Dr. Paul Brand) to a whole new level.
Here's the story's set-up:
Before Audrey was the baker's wife, she was the pastor's wife. Then a scandalous lie cost her husband a pastoral career. Now the two work side-by-side running a bakery, serving coffee, and baking fresh bread. But the hurt still pulls at Audrey.
Early one morning on her way to the bakery, Audrey's car strikes something at a fog-shrouded intersection. She finds a crumpled motor scooter belonging to a local teacher. Blood is everywhere, but there's no trace of a body. As the story unfolds, Audrey has no choice but to work with a soul-damaged ex-con and a cynical teen to solve the mystery of the missing body and clear her name. But she'll never manage that unless she taps into something she would rather leave behind - her excruciating ability to feel other's pain.
Naturally, my favorite parts of this novel were the descriptions of the couple baking all kinds of bread at home on their days off. No bread machines here - all from scratch and by hand. They did, however, use their dishwasher as a steam bath for the loaves! I also adored the description of the large, wood-fired brick oven they later used in their retail bakery kitchen.
See some of what I'm referring to in this section of the novel on Google books.
Just so happened I read the description of their wood-fired oven while on the way to visit my brother up north. And he'd just had a brick oven built in his backyard. Yes, I know - how very Gwyneth Paltrow of him. I tried to keep my jealousy to a minimum as we ate homemade pizzas from his oven, poolside.
Also while reading this one, I visited the region of California that makes this novel's setting. An area famous for thick car-accident-causing fog, which figures prominently in this suspense.
Healy handles each element of this story just as deftly as she does the bread description. She weaves her characters and plot lines together intricately and well.
At times the antagonist (aka the bad guy) in the story felt a little one dimensional, but then bad guys usually are. At least in stories. The rest of the main characters are well developed - complete with hurts, hopes, dreams and fears. Together they manage to find their way out of a horrific experience and teach us some lessons about judgement, grace, and trusting God.
If you like inspirational mystery/suspense, I bet you'll like this one. And if you like foodie novels, this one will make you want to bake some bread. Adding to the power of the book, last week I was on the phone with my agent who is learning to make french loaves from scratch. So I can feel a major bread baking obsession coming on.
Before you go, see my last post - Gift Ideas from the Bookstore - for an idea on turning this novel into a great Christmas gift for a book-lover or bread-lover you know. And if you read The Baker's Wife, let us know what you thought of it.