I love exploring Christian fiction. I do have some genres I’m just not willing to step into, but—for the most part—I try to keep my doors open when it comes to reviewing Christian work. Mysteries is most certainly one of the genres on my “Not Interested” list for my website, but when I received a query for this novel, I thought I’d take a chance and I’m glad that I did.
Unwelcome Detective combines the romance and energetic excitement of high school life with a very real and very dangerous mystery of a problem that might be too much for the main character to handle. Angie Keane, our spunky, 14-year-old protagonist, is starting her first year of high school and she plans to do it with a bang by joining her school’s group of teen detectives. Angie starts things off as planned but quickly realizes there are obstacles she must overcome before the detective work can even begin. Angie is shocked when her brother refuses to let her become a detective but that doesn’t stop her from trying to solve an interesting case on her own. Trusting God, and taking a leap of faith, Angie puts everything on the line for this case—even her life.
I don’t like saying that I’m impressed with an author’s work because that sort of puts me in a more authoritative position which I don’t think I have. But I don’t think I can use any other word here when I think about this book. It might be because I’m not a huge fan of such young protagonists—I usually draw the line at 16 or 17—or maybe its because I don’t read mysteries often, so I had low expectations. Whatever the reason, impressed is the perfect way to describe how I felt when going through this book. The mystery is not one that you can easily figure out and the inclusion of faith goes deeper than just quoting a few scriptures here or there.
I find that Christian fiction is difficult to approach outside of fantasy and romance, but here Evans has proven that you can have a very natural flow of faith with your characters—young ones too! And that you can build a very real bridge between Christianity and entertainment. I’m very happy to have found a book that is “clean” and “Christian” and not bogged down by silly stereotypes about teens and drinking and partying and sex but still offers a very satisfying degree of entertainment.
My only complaint about this book is the weird way Evans worked diversity into it. Being an African-American writer and reader, I am always on the hunt for diversity as much as I am for Christian books. The search seems long and hard sometimes but here and there I find something notable and worth mentioning. Oddly enough, diversity is my only complaint here—not the lack thereof.
There was a minority lead in this book which I appreciated, but I thought it was so odd the way the character was introduced. Lou, who is an African-American male and best friend to one of the protagonists, is described as the “first really close black friend” the character ever made. I tilted my head to the side when I read that, like, why is this important? If a character is black, then they’re black. Why does it need to be some special mention? No one explained their first “really close white friend” in the book. Granted, this book took place in the 1980’s in a town the author described as not having many black people to begin with. Given the circumstances, I do understand why this fact about Lou was highlighted. BUT I wish this wasn’t the case. In this book, it is understandable, but I’ve seen instances like this in so many works of fiction that it feels old. Like black or minority characters only become part of a story as some sort of astonishing standout—a rare occurrence because the book takes place in some headache inducing period in America’s rocky racial past.
I wish there could be biracial relationships and minority characters that naturally flow in a story without there needing to be an explanation or special mention of it/them. I am so grateful for this diverse cast, but I wish it flowed more naturally—UNLESS it has some sort of point or impact on the story, in which case, it somewhat did for Unwelcome Detective. Hopefully, in future books, there won’t be a need for the honorable mention of black characters, hopefully they will be viewed as just another character. Not any different and not more or less important than the rest of the cast simply because of the color of their skin.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and I certainly recommend it to readers of all ages, especially Christian readers. Mystery fans and YA/middle-grade readers will love this. If you’re looking for something to read with the family or share with a youth group, you’ll want to pick this up today.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*