Thursday 4 October 2018

Book Review – Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks

By Ian Acheson - @achesonian
Gwen Marcey has done a good job keeping the pain of her past boxed up. But as she investigates the case of a missing child in Lapwai, Idaho, details keep surfacing that are eerily similar to her childhood traumas. She doesn’t believe in coincidences. So what’s going on here?

No one knows more about the impact of the past than the Nez Perce people of Lapwai. Gwen finds herself an unwelcome visitor to some, making her investigation even more difficult. The questions keep piling up, but answers are slow in coming—and the clock is ticking for a missing little girl. Meanwhile, Gwen’s ex-husband is threatening to take sole custody of their daughter.
As Gwen’s past and present collide, she’s in a desperate race for the truth. Because only truth will ensure she still has a future.

This was a challenging story as there were many different plot points to it. The serial killer, the connection to Gwen’s upbringing, the separate issue of her parents (who were they, why’d they die, what they were investigating, what were their names), the dam incident and the possible romantic link between Gwen and Seth. The story sure kept me on my toes. And then there was the suspense that made sure I was never at ease when reading it.

I find Carrie’s 1st person style engrossing and Gwen Marcey is such a remarkable character that it’s very easy to cheer her on. Gwen is so real and vulnerable, she makes mistakes. I love that. So many authors (myself included) don’t allow our characters to make mistakes. And Beth – she is such a good sidekick. And their friendship is delightful to watch. Seth was very real too.

The pace was good. I always felt I had to be alert and on my toes to keep abreast of all that was going on and with all the plot twists I certainly was never bored and there were one or two plot twists that surprised me including one relating to a key character.

I also particularly appreciated the setting being The Nez Perce Indian Reservation that added a strong flavour to the story.

I didn’t want this story to end and I so hope Gwen, Beth and Winston make another appearance. I believe there’s plenty of legs left in the Gwen Marcey series. This is the second I’ve read after the “A Cry from the Dust” and I’ve loved both. Principally because of Gwen, she is simply such a great character. I’d like to see her on TV. Her vulnerability, her honesty about breast cancer, prosthetic breasts, divorce struggles, mothering struggles, her forensic skills and so on. Just brilliant.

You don't have to have read any of the preceding 3 stories (I've only read one) to be thoroughly captivated by Gwen Marcey and her best mate, Beth. Give one of them a try, you won't be disappointed.

BTW, “Portrait’ recently won the Carol for Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller to add to its INSPY from earlier in the year.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard was recognised with the 2014 Selah Award for Speculative Fiction.You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook pageand Twitter


  1. Bless your heart, Ian!

  2. I've read all the Gwen Marcey stories, and agree that Carrie Stuart Parks fully deserved her recent Carol Award. This was definitely my pick in the category!


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