Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Fields of Wrath: A tough, fascinating mystery with spiritual implications

Fields of Wrath (Luis Chavez, #1)Fields of Wrath by Mark Wheaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Following his ordination as a priest, Father Luis Chavez returns to the mean streets of his youth, hoping to put his past behind him. But the brutal murder of a worker in Ventura County’s vast farm fields compels Luis to return to his criminal roots in order to unravel a massive conspiracy. Teaming up with Michael Story, an ambitious Los Angeles deputy DA, Chavez goes undercover as a farm laborer to bring down an immense human-trafficking ring tied to one of California’s most prominent and powerful families.

Fighting to stay on the path of the righteous while confronting evil at every turn, Father Chavez finds himself in a battle of good versus evil, with the souls of hundreds hanging in the balance.
I picked this up as a Kindle First free for Amazon Prime. It was a wonderful surprise.

There is a nuanced look at different priests in a large L.A. parish. One of those priests is Luis Chavez, a former gangbanger who found God and wound up back in his home town. There is a Mexican man who was harassed by cops his entire life and took the unusual path of becoming an officer himself to do it the right way. There are desperate illegal immigrants, crooked lawmen, and scheming corporation managers.

They've all got their own problems in real life and on the job. In other words, these are more interesting and complex characters than I often find in a mystery, whether free or otherwise. The mystery is involved and the writing is good to boot.

Most of all I like the way the Catholic faith is represented through Father Luis. We see him in many encounters with various priests, believers, scoffers, and acquaintances from the old life. No one is neutral and many challenge him. Yet Father Luis never seems to hit a false note. He's sincere, honest, and nonjudgmental while somehow never being soft about the things that count. The author never makes the mistake of attributing too much to God or presenting a cynical or overly deferential view of the Church. This is really refreshing.

Come for the mystery. Stay for Father Luis.

Here's hoping there will be a second mystery featuring the good father.

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