Fall From Grace by Susan Kraus (Grace McDonald #1)

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Fall From Grace is the first book in the new Grace McDonals series by the debut author Susan Kraus. She sent me her two books currently published in the series with a request to read and review.

Being a completely new author, with no previous books under her belt, first thing I did was to check the book reviews and ratings, both at Goodreads and Amazon. They were all 5 stars with glowing reviews. Now call me cynic, but when a new author’s first book has only 5 star reviews, usually something’s too good to be true. I mean even well known masters of mysteries and thrillers have a few 1-4 stars snuck in there. It’s the way people are: tastes vary and that’s very true in books as well.

So when I picked up the book, I have to say I had my bias riding along with me. And when I got a few pages in the book, I forgot all about my bias, about the knowledge that we’re talking about a new book author with nothing else written so far. The book sucked me in right from the start.

Having just finished Fall From Grace, I have a lot of thoughts dancing in my mind about it, all competing with each other to be heard first.

This is not your typical crime mystery book. Sure there is a crime committed, but the story crosses genres easily and smoothly. It is also part psychological thriller, part family drama, part legal mystery, with a bit of chilling thrill in it for good measure.

Grace McDonals is a psychiatrist, a therapist who loves her job and her clients. She has a great marriage and two grown up kids who are already in college away from home. She lives in a small and friendly fictional town in Kansas. A middle aged woman content with her cozy family life.

All this changes when she gets a new client, Mandy, who is not quite sure why she seeks therapy from Grace, but knows that she needs to change something in her life. With the help from Grace, she comes to the conclusion that she has to divorce her abusive husband. Although that might come with its own dangers. Afterall Danny, her husband, might not take this very well…

I don’t want to give away more of the plot, to avoid spoilers, but when you read the book, you are basically privy to everything. You know who the bad guy is, you are in his mind when he does the bad things and you know his (twisted) reasoning. You are privy to basically everything what happens at every moment.

The story is told from several points of views – Grace, Mandy, Danny, various police officers and the DA as well, all have some sections to themselves. Everyone has an opinion – and of course you will have one as well.

What I find interesting though is that even though I knew at all times what was about to happen, the suspense was constantly present. I really got attached to Grace and felt her deep suffering, it was all too real.

Grace is a likable character, and to be honest, I was waiting for the punch line about her. Usually when the story is about a character (and the series is named after them as well), you know that the character will be the one to solve the crimes in the books. However not so here. This is in fact another aspect that sets this book apart from other mysteries with one main female character.

The book is all about Grace, about her life and her suffering, but she is really the victim in all this. She is not solving any crime. Even though she looked through her cases to find a possible reason, she never found the right one, although it was there, within her files all along. In fact if it weren’t for another woman’s strong and courageous acts, she’d be still in deep trouble.

I see this first book more like an introduction to Grace, which gives us the background story where we can learn about what she’s been through, so we can understand where she is coming from in the next stories. It is what that shaped her character and made her be who would will be in the future.  Or at least, so I hope.

The author has a great way with words and the writing is strong, flowing smoothly, with no hiccups and glitches in phrasing like you see usually with new authors.

When I finished the book, I sat in my couch thinking about it for quite some time. It was quite the emotional book and for the hours I’ve been reading it, I felt part of that world. Not many authors can make me feel so strongly about their characters and settings.

Overall I can see now why Fall From Grace received only 5 star ratings. They are all well deserved. I’m reading now the second book because I can’t wait to see how what happened in the first book to Grace will changed her in the sequel. Will she grow stronger for it, and in what way?

To learn more about what drove the author to write this series about Grace, check out her musings on Mystery Sequels, called Creating A New Series at Age 64.

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