Thursday, September 2, 2010

In the Belly of Jonah by Sandra Brannan

Book Details
In the Belly of Jonah by Sandra Brannan
Paperback, 288 Pages
2010, Greenleaf Book Group Press
ISBN: 1608320502
Series: Book 1 of Liv Bergen Mysteries

In the Belly of Jonah is a fast-paced mystery with a likable protagonist and an intricately woven narrative brimming with bizarre yet believable twists. The first in a series, the book expertly lays the groundwork for Liv Bergen, amateur sleuth, and her love interest, FBI Agent Streeter Pierce.

Liv becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of Jill Brannigan, a summer intern at the limestone mine Liv manages near Fort Collins, Colorado (a breathtaking setting that unwittingly becomes an accessory to crime). In doing so, she inadvertently puts her friends, her family, and herself at risk of being swallowed in the belly of a madman bloated with perverse appetites for women, surrealistic art, and renown.

Perhaps a bit too daring (and at times irreverent) for her own good, ''Boots,'' as Liv's eight siblings call her, soon realizes she has a knack for outsmarting and tracking down the Venus de Milo murderer--and she enjoys it! As the gripping plot of In the Belly of Jonah unfolds, Liv Bergen takes her place alongside the best female crime-solvers as a woman with smarts, self-confidence, and intuitive savvy.

In the Belly of Jonah is a shockingly gruesome mystery. When a serial killer hits too close to home for our new heroine, by brutally murdering one of her employees, Liv Bergen starts investigating. She's smart, tough, and smooth enough to be able to look into the murders in a way that makes her an asset rather than a nuisance to the official FBI investigation.

Liv is a manager of a mining company, which means the book contains a pretty decent amount of information on the topic. Mining is something I knew absolutely nothing about and I didn't believe it could ever be made interesting. Sandra Brannan did just that, explaining bits and pieces of the industry in relation to the case, without ever venturing into dull, jargon-filled territory. And non-believers, don't let the title scare you. In the Belly of Jonah contains some religious references, but there is no actual religious focus in the book.

The mystery and resulting investigation were extremely well done. The murders are really bizarre. The descriptions are graphic, with nothing held back. It may be too much for some, but I loved the horrific realness of it. It's gets under your skin, making you uncomfortable, but puts you right there in the action. A constant back and forth between two suspects made it impossible to tell who the actual killer was until the very end. I changed my mind multiple times, finally giving up so I could enjoy the thrills without second guessing myself.

Liv's a young, hard-working, single woman, so I was surprised and pleased to find In the Belly of Jonah didn't rush her into a romance. I have high hopes for a relationship between Liv and FBI agent Streeter Pierce to develop in future books and this book sets that possibility up perfectly. There aren't many authors today that can create tension between characters that haven't even really met yet, but Brannan manages to make you impatiently excited for when they do finally come together.

In the Belly of Jonah is the best mystery I've read in quite a while. It has everything I hope to find in new series - a strong female main character, a strange and disturbing serial killer and the promise of exciting investigations in the future. This is definitely a must read for anyone who likes their mysteries with a little edge.


Sandra Brannan's


  1. Oh, I love mysteries and I can never seem to find a great new one...this sounds excellent. Great review :)

  2. I'm looking forward to reading this one. Sounds like a winner for me!

  3. @Melissa - Thanks!

    @Kay - I hope you love it as much as I did!