Burning Proof . . . a Christian police procedural

Available in digital, hardbound and paperback editions.
Available in digital, hardbound and paperback editions.

After months of investigating the brutal homicide of a young girl, Detective Abby Hart has the evidence she needs. But when the arrest goes terribly wrong, Abby begins to doubt her future as a police officer. As she wrestles with conflicting emotions, old questions about the fire that took her parents’ lives come back to haunt her. “There is proof.” PI Luke Murphy can’t stop thinking about what Abby’s former partner, Asa Foster, mumbled just before he died. When he uncovers a clue to the murder of Abby’s parents and his uncle, he’s reluctant to tell Abby, despite his growing feelings for the beautiful detective. A decade-old abduction case brings Luke and Abby together, but will his secret tear them apart?


Burning Proof provides indisputable evidence that a police procedural can be both authentic and clean, with a multi-layered mystery that should satisfy Christian readers without compromising their standards or offending their sensibilities.

Janice Cantore, a retired Long Beach (Calif.) police officer, has created a strong female lead in Detective Abby Hart, haunted by the 27-year-old murder of her parents – a mystery that provides the backstory for the Cold Case Justice series and that connects Drawing Fire, the first book in the series, to Burning Proof and leads into the third, Catching Heat, scheduled for release this fall.

The second story opens with Hart confronting a vengeful father as she and her partner arrest a suspect in the rape and murder of his 10-year-old daughter. The father opens fire, and so does Hart, and the tragic result shatters her serenity. This sets the scene for a spiritual crisis, and faith under fire is one of the themes Cantore addresses in this story – Abby’s as well as that of another victim, a young woman who was abducted and raped as a teenager and whose assailant has never been caught. Cantore writes with authority, both as a cop and as a Christian.

Burning Proof was my first encounter with Cantore and her characters. I had a little trouble at first in keeping track of all the characters, though I suspect that will not pose a problem for those who read Drawing Fire first. (I’m going to go back and read it as soon as I can.) Cantore depicts four kinds of characters – good guys who are Christians, good guys who are not, cops who have been corrupted, and villains who embrace evil – and all four are complex characters, not caricatures.

The story ends without a resolution to the murder of Abby’s parents, but the storyline is advanced considerably and it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Readers should be satisfied with this story . . . yet want to read the next.

A hint of romance also extends from the first book in the series through Burning Proof and reaching into the future. Abby is engaged to Ethan, a missionary who hopes Abby will give up the quest for justice and follow him to foreign fields. But she’s also attracted to Luke, a private investigator whose uncle was killed with Abby’s parents. Luke is likewise attracted to Abby, but her engagement to Ethan is a boundary he won’t cross. This storyline is slow to develop . . . and all the more authentic for that! Nobody is rushing into anything. If you’re hoping for a quick, happily-ever-after, you may be disappointed. But, if you are yearning for a real romance where men and women take the time to separate style from substance and build a solid relationship, then you should be satisfied to let this one take its time.

One final note: This is Christian fiction. If you don’t care for Christian fiction, you won’t care for this book. I didn’t find the Christian themes to be moralistic or preachy, but I don’t think it will appeal to non-Christian readers. The characters who are Christians read their Bibles and they pray, both silently on their own and together with other Christian characters.

Sis received a complimentary advanced reading copy from Tyndale House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a review reflecting her own opinion. Anything else would be a sin.

About the author: A retired Long Beach California police officer of 22 years (16 in uniform and 6 as a non-career officer), Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, patrol, administration, juvenile investigations and training. During the course of her career in uniform Janice found that faith was indispensable to every aspect of the job and published articles on faith at work, one for a quarterly newspaper called “Cop and Christ”, and another for the monthly magazine “Today’s Christian Woman”. With retirement Janice began to write longer pieces and several novels were born. Janice is excited and honored to now be a part of the Tyndale Publishing House family. Accused, the first installment in her new suspense offering, The Pacific Coast Justice Series, was released February 1, 2012 and kicked off a brand new chapter in her writing career. In addition to suspense and action, her books feature strong female leads. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep you engrossed and leave you inspired.

Drawing Fire: One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart. With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby’s best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she’s anxious to talk to him about a cold case that’s personal to her—one Luke is interested in as well. As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents’ lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

Catching Heat: Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where the culprit grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire. Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.

The Winemaker Detective

Featuring mysteries with a French flair

Winemaker DetectiveThe Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus — Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist and Nightmare in Burgundy by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus introduces a master winemaker and his assistant, an unlikely pair of detectives, in an amusing series that shines like a rich Bordeaux with a style that could be called continental cosy.

Benjamin Cooker, the French-English master winemaker, and his assistant, the virile Virgile, manage to solve murder as well as mayhem in the world of wine.  The three novellas – Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist and Nightmare in Burgundy – each combine a satisfying mystery with an ample serving of French culture and especially French viniculture.

For some, the stories may start a bit slow . . . more like traditional British mysteries of a bygone era.  I didn’t mind.  For others, the technical details may be distracting.  Again, I didn’t mind – I quite enjoyed learning more about wines, vineyards and vintages, and other aspects of French culture and the French countryside.  I’m no oenophile – I’ve been known to drink pink wine out of a box and to purchase bottles with screwcaps – but such a background is happily not needed.  Especially with an e-reader, which makes it easy to take a brief detour into the exact definition of grand cru or Haut-Brion without losing the threads of the story or stories.

Indeed, one of the pleasures of the series is learning more about the French countryside in general and the wine regions in particular – a vacation in a volume (or two, or three).

The contrast of Cooker, a man of integrity as well as a man of faith, with his assistant, Virgile, an agnostic and a bit of a lady’s man, lends strength to the series.

But, readers should take warning that the series isn’t strictly cosy:  The stories include a spattering of vulgar language and one fairly explicit (but by no means pornographic) sexual scene – on the whole, tame in both respects.  That’s why I called it continental cosy.  (And, yes, given the setting, I’m opting for the British spelling here.) featured

In Treachery in Bordeaux, barrels at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate in Bordeaux have been contaminated. Is it negligence or sabotage? In Grand Cru Heist, Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris with a carjacking. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover, where he and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and an unusual theft. In Nightmare in Burgundy, a dream wine-tasting trip to Burgundy turns into a troubling nightmare when Cooker and his assistant stumble upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era.

NOTE:  Sis received an advanced reading copy from Le French Book via NetGalley in exchange for an independent and unbiased review.  Sis has as much integrity as Benjamin Cooker and would never offer less.

Also in this series:

Deadly Tasting – a serial killer stalks Bordeaux.  To understand the wine-related symbolism, the local police call on the famous wine critic Benjamin Cooker.  The investigation leads them to the dark hours of France’s history, as the mystery thickens among the once-peaceful vineyards of Pomerol.

Cognac Conspiracies – the heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors.  Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books.  In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he and his assistant, Virgile, have their loyalties tested.

About the authors:  Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen came up with the winemaker detective over a glass of wine, of course.  Alaux is a magazine, radio, and television journalist when he is not writing novels in southwestern France.  The grandson of a winemaker, he has a passion for food, wine, and winemaking.  For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.  Noël Balen lives in Paris, where he writes, makes records, and lectures on music.  He plays bass, is a music critic, and has written a number of books about musicians, as well as many novels and short stories.

The three stories in this omnibus were translated by Anne Trager, who founded Le French Book to introduce books she enjoyed to a broader audience, and Sally Pane.  “If we love it, we translate it” is the company’s motto.