Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Stars Shine Bright, by Sibella Giorello (Thomas Nelson)


I preordered The Stars Shine Bright well in advance, because that's both a safe and advisable thing to do with a Giorello novel.  Think about that when the next one is on deck.

FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is back with perhaps the most complex challenge--professionally and personally--to her troubled career and life thus far.  And that's saying something.

Someone appears to be fixing horse races at Emerald Meadows, Seattle's premier thoroughbred race track.  Raleigh goes undercover as the niece of horse-owner Eleanor Anderson, who has requested federal assistance in investigating a most irregular trend of events at the track.  Apparently, horses favored as winners suddenly falter, and long shots triumph, all in a disconcertingly consistent fashion.  Who's manipulating the outcomes?  Who has the most to gain from such a scenario?

Out of the starting gate, the Mob surges into first place on the list of suspects in the person of Salvatore Gigliardo, an owner and bookie at Emerald Meadows.  But not all the brightly shining stars align to support this notion, so Raleigh reins back her initial impressions in the face of steadily diminishing evidentiary odds that Sal is the true culprit--as convenient as that might be--since Sal's horses are as much victims as the other owners' steeds are.  Her probing, some of it sullied by the unorthodoxy that has her at odds with her FBI chieftains, reveals a surprising tangent to everything she thought and felt to be true.  What is it?  Sorry, I'm already on the verge of a spoiler, so I shall share no more.

The personal complexity focuses on her complicated relationships with not only the Bureau (and one fellow special agent in particular), but with her relatives, especially her mother, who is now under observation in a mental institution.  Enter DeMott Fielding, the fiancé she's so studiously avoided in the prequel, The Mountains Bow Down, and Raleigh's inner turmoil noses into the turf like a drunken mudder.  Unlike in the prequel, however, at last we see Raleigh beginning to grow through her previously almost debilitating spiritual, emotional, and personal struggles. The prayers she lifted seemingly in vain before finally begin to bear fruit, prayers no longer short-circuited through eyes squeezed shut in agony, but filtered through up-lifted tears of submission.  Not only do the stars shine bright, but a singular light appears at the end of the proverbial tunnel for Raleigh.  Decisions clamoring to be made are attended to, and the results of those decisions begin to manifest in a most satisfactory way.

Add Ms. Giorello's most intricate plot so far to her phenomenally detailed research and inimitable writing voice, and you simply have a can't-put-it-down novel.  Note that I normally make a concerted effort to avoid the overused "couldn't put it down."  But sometimes it's just true.

Too little, too vague?  Sorry.  If you've followed Ms. Giorello's journey with Special Agent Harmon to this point, you'll get it.  If you haven't, back up and begin with The Stones Cry Out (a Christy Award winner), through The Rivers Run Dry, and The Mountains Bow Down, then on to this point of Raleigh's story.  It's well worth the ride.


Sibella said...

Bruce, thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed "Stars." I'm grateful to you for always "getting" Raleigh Harmon's story.
Wishing you the best with your writing as well. -- sibella

Bruce Judisch said...

Great read, Sibella. Thanks.

Cheers! Bruce