An Inspirational Mystery
The fictional village of Sommerville, NY, snuggled comfortably between the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains and the sparkling waters of Great Sacandaga Lake, is the setting for this novel of inspirational suspense which unfolds over an incredibly short one-week time span.
Readers are immediately thrust into the mystifying world of the TRUE COVENANT SHEPHERDS, a religious cult living on a mountain outside Sommerville, where rules and restrictions are harshly enforced by REVEREND SAMUEL HENDERSON and his grandson and heir-apparent, ELI HENDERSON. The Reverend’s rigid control has become legendary across the Adirondack region, but, after forty-plus years of domination, his ability to provide the appropriate leadership for his flock is deteriorating as quickly as his health. With his physical and mental competence decreasing, he allows his unscrupulous grandson to move into the Shepherd Community from the outside world. The Reverend denies the reality of Eli’s “problems” and begins the process of grooming him to assume spiritual leadership duties. After only one year of Eli’s presence in their community, the Shepherds become concerned with some of the changes he is initiating. However, instead of pressing their case to the Reverend, their failure to confront the obvious creates a fertile ground for Eli to sow his seeds of malice.
Sommerville’s new, young medical doctor, PAUL ABRAMS, and his wife MARIA have only been in the village for a short time and are still acclimating to the rhythm of small town life when JEDIDIAH SUTTON, an elder in the Shepherd Community, requests emergency medical attention. Even though Paul knows the Shepherds do not believe in reaching out into the “secular world” for medical care, a sense of duty compels him to respond to Jed’s pleas.
After a treacherous trip through a bitter January night to reach the Shepherds’ isolated settlement on Hayden Hill, Paul is able to fully understand the depths of Jed’s distress. His thirteen-year-old daughter, BECKY, is in the throes of a complicated labor much to the surprise and anguish of her parents. After successfully delivering Becky’s premature baby under difficult circumstances, Paul insists on following his new young patient through her complicated recovery period despite the threatening resistance from the Shepherds.
When Becky finally trusts Paul enough to share her fears with him, he realizes this is a much larger problem than he originally thought. His profound concern for her safety is magnified after he unexpectedly comes face-to-face with Reverend Henderson and Eli. Their disgusting accusations and inappropriate behavior make it clear that Becky is in terrible danger. Even as Paul endures his own personal tragedy after his wife rejects small town life by returning to her former life in New York City, his dedication to his profession and his faith plunge him head-first into the improprieties taking place in the troubled Shepherds’ Community.
After Paul confides his suspicions to FATHER PATRICK O’BANNON, the seasoned Catholic priest, they recruit two others to join them: REVEREND JIM MURRAY, the zealous evangelical minister, and CLARENCE CONOVER, Sommerville’s savvy Chief of Police. Together, these men form a sacred alliance to save Becky’s life. As Paul, Father Patrick, Pastor Jim, and Chief Conover rapidly uncover the Shepherds’ secrets, an unexpected outcome surfaces: their differences become inconsequential and a deep, enduring friendship develops.
The last few chapters climax in high drama as the Shepherds gather in their house of worship to confront Eli, their sinning brother. Even when emotions become explosive, the Shepherds adhere in staunch obedience to the New Testament principles laid out in the Gospel of Matthew for confronting an unfaithful brother. Along with Paul and the other “outsiders” who have dared to intrude into the Shepherds’ private sanctuary, readers are fascinated by this demonstration of faith as they watch the remarkable proceedings unfold.
In addition to being allowed a peek into the private, but closely knit lives of the Shepherd families, particularly the Sutton and MASON families, readers become acquainted with many Sommerville residents who frequent Paul’s medical clinic and become entwined in his story. There is CINDY, Paul’s energetic, but astute medical assistant; MARJORIE MANSFIELD, an elderly breast cancer patient; BETSY HARRISON, the victim of domestic abuse; and DEBBIE CAVALIERE, the owner of Sommerville’s Brick Oven restaurant.