J. Mark Bertrand reviews a new, rather different set of God’s Word for readers. “This is a beautiful concept executed beautifully. It’s one of the best editions I have ever covered at Bible Design Blog.”
— James K.A. Smith (@james_ka_smith) October 11, 2016
She rolls her eyes. “The Song of Roland. Don’t get me started. That was the first one we had to read. If that’s chivalry, then you can have it. That book infuriates me.”
“Really.” I flip through the pages, many of which are underscored. I’m familiar with the story, of course, though I can’t recall having actually read the poem. In fact, before now I’m not sure I realized it was a poem, with all the stanzas and verses. “He’s supposed to blow the horn to signal the ambush, is that it?”
“He’s supposed to blow it if they need help. Only Roland’s too proud for that, so he waits and waits until everybody’s basically dead. Does that sound like heroism to you?”
Bertrand’s third thrilling novel in his Roland March series begins with a body dumped in a recreational park. The head is missing and the hands, one of which is pointing, have been ‘degloved,’ which is a clinical word for skinned. March’s partner on the case, Jerry Lorenz, suggests the hand is pointing at something, maybe the missing head, and March nearly breaks his back looking for it. No dice.
I don’t care to outline the plot any further, because I enjoyed jumping into this novel having forgotten almost everything I’d heard about it. It’s a fun story, as are all of Bertrand’s March novels. Personal moments are filled with dialogue like the above interchange on The Song of Roland, showing Bertrand’s appealing bookish style. This brief description of the poem absolutely foreshadows the plot, which is exactly the way they do it in the movies, which reminds me how someone should be throwing money at Bertrand for the honor of taking his March trilogy to the big screen.
March isn’t any kind of super cop or brilliantly quirky detective. He’s a seasoned professional, like many homicide detectives on the force today. He has overcome the difficulties of his past, put numerous criminals behind bars, and continues to seek (and question) trust from his colleagues. He solves his cases by hard, honest work: asking questions, following leads, and pressuring forensics to cough up the right evidence. Like the title suggests, Nothing to Hide drives its story to a bold climax where all cards are on the table and everyone’s exposed.
J. Mark Bertrand has a brief interview on The Gospel Coalition today, in which he talks about being a writer and says this.
“Because I write crime novels, one of the themes in my books is brokenness. Sometimes we feel the pressure not to tell the whole truth about the brokenness, or to soften the blow in some way. Evil, however, affects all of life.”
The Bible Exchange labels J. Mark Bertrand “the most interesting man in the (Bible) world” as a way to soften him up before peppering him with questions. What’s his favorite Bible? The ESV Reader’s Bible, though possibly not the edition I’ve linked to. Is this the Bible he’d want if he were to be stranded on a dessert-ladened island surrounded by cakes and coffees… I mean, a desert island with only a shade weed and a view of Nineveh? No. He’d want “one that doesn’t yet exist.
“Every so often people will ask me, ‘Why don’t you design your own Bible?’ I’d really like to. I’ve gone so far as to create the proposal to see whether any publishers are interested in the project. Meanwhile I am staying away from boats and airplanes for fear of being prematurely stranded.”
Thus spake Mark Bertrand:
“Things that don’t matter don’t keep getting done. Things that do become second nature. The key to any discipline, I suppose, is figuring how to make it matter.”
So if we want to be writers, we must decide writing is what we actually want to do. And whatever work that must go around the writing too must matter–the research, the market opportunities, and the spiritual nurturing that keeps us closer the Lover of our souls.
“Writers already lead uncomfortably quantified lives, measuring our worth in the number of words written today, in the number of books in print and how well they’ve sold. All of these metrics speak to one kind of quality –– my quality of life –– without addressing another, the quality of my work. The best written books aren’t always the bestselling…”
Far more than any philosophical writing, Bertrand says reading novels exposes and explores him in unexpected ways. “In novels I face up to things I never seem to in other kinds of writing.”
In the third installment in J. Mark Bertrand’s excellent crime series about Houston police detective Roland March, we find March examining the body of a man dumped on a basketball court. The body’s head is missing, and both hands have been skinned. March’s former enemy – now his friend and partner – Jerry Lorenz, thinks there might be some significance in the fact that one of the fleshless hands is arranged as if pointing. March jumps a ditch to investigate, falling and injuring his back. And there don’t seem to be any clues in that direction.
But it’s early yet.
Nothing to Hide takes March on a dangerous and tragic ride that reintroduces him to antagonists from his own past, and forces him to push the edge of the law in order to pursue the impartial justice he demands for every victim, and for which he’s willing to put his life and freedom on the line. An interesting sideline is that part of the plot anticipates the ATF’s disastrous “Fast and Furious” program, although the book was written before that scandal was made public.
Strong stuff. I salute Bethany House for publishing a series so far beyond the usual standard of Christian fiction, both in quality and in subject matter. The Christian elements are there, as an integral part of the story, but the purpose here is to tell stories about the truth, not to present a gospel tract to the reader.
The book works fine as a stand-alone, but there’s a definite story arc in connection with the previous novels in the series. I’m contemplating re-reading them all to get the sweep of the thing. Highly recommended, with cautions for disturbing content.
One of the keys to a long career in law enforcement is learning how to tell police psychologists what they need to hear without sounding deceptive. The only alternative is good mental health, which to me has always seemed too unrealistic a goal.
That’s Houston Police Detective Roland March, hero of J. Mark Bertrand’s crime novel Pattern of Wounds, a sequel to Back On Murder. I liked the first book very much, and I think I liked this one even more. Bertrand is doing almost exactly the thing I’ve tried to do (with far less success) in my own fantasy novels—to portray the real world through eyes of faith, giving both believers and unbelievers a fair chance to make their cases.
Roland March is a Houston cop, at once admired and disliked in his department because of his erratic career history. Successful enough as a crime solver to have been the subject of two true crime novels, he went through a slump period (following the death of his daughter in a car accident with a drunk driver) during which he seemed to be on the way out. In this book he tells us something we didn’t know before about that period—he was cutting corners because he didn’t trust the justice system. Always staying within the limits of strict legality (or so he believed), he nevertheless bent the law in order to insure “true justice” as he saw it. Continue reading Pattern of Wounds, by J. Mark Bertrand
Ken Myers has interviewed J. Mark Bertrand on worldview, reading, and other fun topics. That should be a great interview. You can subscribe to the MP3 version of the MHA Journal for $30/year. It’s always very interesting.
In fact, you can listen to several recordings in their CD Bonus section. Note these two: “Vol. 66 – Leon Kass, on how new technologies have changed the assumptions many people have about their children” and “Vol. 53 – Dana Gioia talks about the life and work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and reads a poem inspired by the death of his wife, ‘The Cross of Snow.'”