Welcome to Litfuse Publicity’s Blog Tour for The Mountains Bow Down
Raleigh Harmon is supposed to be on vacation, taking a much-needed break from her job as an FBI agent in Richmond, Virginia, as well as her fiance, DeMott Fielding. She joins her mother, Nadene, as well as her paternal aunt, Charlotte, and Charlotte’s friend, “Claire the Clairvoyant,” on an Alaskan cruise. Charlotte has been asked by her friend, Judy Carpenter, to be part of the production crew for her husband’s latest movie, Northern Decomposure, which is filming on board. Milo Carpenter, an alcoholic actor, hasn’t made a hit film in quite some time and badly needs this movie to be a success in order to resurrect his sagging action-hero film career. Charlotte believes she has discerned vibrations from crystals that can heal spiritual wounds and Judy is convinced not only that those vibrations helped her musician clients score hit records, but they can do the same for the movie. Charlotte agreed only if her family could join her on the cruise. Since Milo is playing an FBI agent, Raleigh has signed on as a consultant.
But the cruise has barely gotten underway when Judy’s body is discovered hanging over the side of the ship. While the ship’s security chief, Geert van Broeck, seems satisfied that Judy committed suicide, Raleigh is not so sure, given the forensic evidence she observes. When Raleigh discovers what appears to be a bracelet comprised of brilliant blue stones tangled up in the rope Judy allegedly used to hang herself, her background as a geologist leads her to conclude that it is quite valuable — and not something that a person who planned to commit suicide would forget to remove before jumping over the side of a ship. She reports her suspicions to Alex McLeod, her former supervisor in the FBI’s violent crimes unit of the Seattle field office where she previously spent time working as a result of a disciplinary transfer. The initial autopsy shows that her suspicions are well-founded — Judy was probably murdered — but the body must be sent for a full examination, as well as toxological tests. McLeod dispatches Special Agent Jack Stephanson to assist Raleigh with the on-board investigation into Judy’s death. Jack is handsome and obviously entranced by Raleigh, who needs to keep her feelings in check while as she works with Jack to find Judy’s killer and fields telephone calls from DeMott, who is growing suspicious.
Meanwhile, Nadene, who still doesn’t know that Raleigh is, in fact, a special agent, rather than a geologist, and has a history of mental disability, is becoming increasingly disoriented and fragile, no thanks to Claire who maliciously reveals Raleigh’s well-kept secret.
Raleigh Harmon is back in action in the Pacific Northwest in this fourth installment in the series. Like The Stones Cry Out, The Rivers Run Dry, and The Clouds Roll Away, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone selection.
Once again, author Sibello Giorello has crafted a taut, fast-paced “whodunit” that will keep readers guessing until the very end. Set in breathtakingly beautiful Alaska, Giorello provides lush descriptions not only of the bowels and inner workings of the cruise ship, but also the ports in which the ship docks, allowing her characters ample opportunity to de-board and engage in adventures in those often quaint, historic locales. The ship makes its way through the Inside Passage and Raleigh and Jack — along with lucky readers — are treated to iceberg and whale sightings. Jack is utterly charming and obviously smitten with Raleigh, but too much a gentleman to act upon his feelings, given her engagement to DeMott. Still, he can’t resist telling Raleigh, after observing a piece of an iceberg the size of an office building fall off one of the glaciers and land in the sea, that he will never forget the opportunity to see that magnificent spectacle — or that he saw it with her. It is a moment so tender yet passionate that the heat between Jack and Raleigh could easily melt a glacier. Raleigh is attracted to Jack, but because she must work out her feelings for DeMott and about marriage, she admirably refrains from either responding or leading Jack on.
Giorello’s tale is an intricately constructed web of thievery, deceit, blackmail, and Hollywood lifestyles run amok. At the center of it all is Milo, a washed-up womanizer who was planning to leave his wife of twenty-two years, even though she single-handedly launched and helped him maintain his career all those years. When Judy is found dead, Milo is the obvious suspect. Geert even observes that the husband is always guilty. Or is he? The movie’s producer, Sandy Sparks (born Lysander Butz), and his trophy wife, Larrah, have skeletons in their own closet, including financial difficulties that make it difficult to maintain the standard of living expected of a successful movie producer. Milo is protected by a bodyguard, Vinnie, and Judy also arranged for MJ, a talented piano player with a long history connecting her to the Carpenters and Sparks, to portray a pianist in the movie. When Raleigh discovers that Milo has stones that appear to be the same type as those in the bracelet secreted away in a jewelry box he presented to Judy just a few weeks earlier, and the movie’s director has some sewn into the linings of his clothing, she must work fast to discover how those mysterious gems connect the various supporting characters, as well as the identity of the murderer, before the cruise ends in just a few short days.
As in previous volumes, Raleigh’s religious beliefs play a small part in the story, assisting readers with understanding her guilt about lying to her mother, deep feelings of loss and regret about her father’s still-unsolved murder, and her fears and feelings of inadequacy. Particularly refreshing is the fact that while Raleigh expressly disavows any belief in Charlotte’s crystals or Claire’s supposed clairvoyance, she neither ridicules nor judges either woman. And she makes no attempt to convert them to Christianity. Rather, she suffers Charlotte’s foibles because she is family and Raleigh has a deep respect for and connection to her family members, even when dealing with them is exasperating and, in the case of her mother’s recurrent bouts with sanity, heart-breaking. Her faith is the “source” of her strength and her father wisely reminded her, from time to time, to “Get to the source, Raleigh.”
Why the title? The character of Raleigh, more completely exposed and empathetic in this volume than the previous ones, explains that her love of geology began the day she found her first rock in the backyard. From there, she voraciously read about the catastrophic natural forces that formed landscapes, minerals, and rocks. She found it all “intoxicating.”
So intoxicating that one day my dad felt compelled to remind me that it would all disappear. Every rock, every hill, each stitch of order. One day the oceans would rise and the mountains bow down, and every last speck of this cherished earth would be forced to recognize true power and trust majesty.
My dad didn’t want me fooled.
Get to the source, Raleigh.
Readers who enjoy a thoughtful, intriguing and even educational mystery — there is much to be learned from Giorello about precious gems and phillumenists — will enjoy The Mountains Bow Down. Be forewarned, however, that if you have always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise, you may find yourself booking one after reading Giorello’s richly loving descriptions of the backdrop against which the action plays out.
Raleigh Harmon fans will be happy to know that even though the killer’s identity is revealed by the last page, there are still many unresolved details about Raleigh’s life, family, and romances that will just have to be explored in the next installment!