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★★★★★
Author: Sandra Brennan
Release Date: September 1st, 2010
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Series: A Liv Bergen Mystery, #1
Followed by: Lot’s Return to Sodom

In The Belly of Jonah is a fast-paced mystery with a likable protagonist and an intricately woven narrative brimming with bizarre yet believable twists. The first in a series, the book expertly lays the groundwork for Liv Bergen, amateur sleuth, and her love interest, FBI Agent Streeter Pierce.

Liv becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of Jill Brannigan, a summer intern at the limestone mine Liv manages near Fort Collins, Colorado (a breathtaking setting that unwittingly becomes an accessory to crime). In doing so, she inadvertently puts her friends, her family, and herself at risk of being swallowed in the belly of a madman bloated with perverse appetites for women, surrealistic art, and renown.

Perhaps a bit too daring (and at times irreverent) for her own good, ”Boots,” as Liv’s eight siblings call her, soon realizes she has a knack for outsmarting and tracking down the Venus de Milo murderer–and she enjoys it! As the gripping plot of In the Belly of Jonah unfolds, Liv Bergen takes her place alongside the best female crime-solvers as a woman with smarts, self-confidence, and intuitive savvy.

He loved women. Truly loved them. Every one of them. He enjoyed their uniqueness and their sameness. Every woman he’d ever met was like a precious snowflake. No two were quite the same, yet they all brought much needed relief into his desert-like life with their individuality. Women were a gift from God. A blessing. Just as Eve was a gift for Adam. Few men regarded women with such delicate wonder and gratefulness. He did.
Women were his life, his passion, his motivation. They were a vision to him and should be regarded as if each were a fine piece of art to behold and admire.

Jill Brannigan has been kidnapped.
Jill Brannigan has been killed, butchered and transformed into a work of art for her murderer’s pleasure.

Who’s going to shine light on this gruesome murder?
Who’s going to catch this disturbing serial killer?
The Denver Police?
The FBI?
Not without the help of Liv Bergen, active in the mining industry and the vic’s boss.
With a fresh point of view over a stale case – dubbed The Venus di Milo case – she takes it upon herself to bring the killer to justice, uncovering a connection between the murders and the art work of Salvador Dalì.

What I enjoyed the most were the ever shifting PoVs, especially because we got an insight in the murderer’s mind.

He stood back to admire his work. All expertly matted and framed, two rows with three pictures each. Ordered, labeled, and perfectly displayed. Self-Portrait. Mother. Sister. Masturbator. Bather. And now Nutrition.
He picked up the glass of scotch he had placed on his dresser and lifted it toward the gallery.
“To perfection,” he toasted.

This dude is all about perfection and art.
He loves the color brown.
He loves to kill and to prop up his victims for just one photograph that he aptly names and hangs in plain view in his room.
He’s also a complete nut.
And he can’t seem to get enough.

Jill Brannigan is not his first victim, nor will she be she his last.

Will Liv and Streeter be able to catch him before he strikes again?

There are loads of thrillers and mysteries out there and you might think there is a high possibility you are grabbing a good one – 8 times outta 10? Ehhmm, no. It’s not that easy and satisfying. Most of those books will be average – if you are lucky. It’s very difficult and frustrating, at times, to find a story that grabs you and keeps you interested ’til the end without making your head inflate. So, not just an average or mildly satisfying thriller/mystery but a mind-blowing one. Sure, it’s all about perspective and personal tastes and what I might consider mind-blowing others might consider just blowing, and the other way around, but what I am so elegantly trying to say is that In the Belly of Jonah is such a book for me.

To me, the finale felt a bit rushed, but it has the desired effect of suspense that will compell you to pick up the next Liv Bergen Mystery – Lot’s Return to Sodom.

Bizarre, macabre, unreal – these are the words to describe this amazing novel.

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