Book Review: The Mountains Bow Down

FBI Agent Raleigh Harmon is on an Atlanta Cruise, officially on-vacation but working as a consultant on a direct to DVD film  It stars a washed up Hollywood actor as an FBI agent. When the actor’s wife commits suicide, Raleigh investigates.

The mystery itself is a solid and well-thought out. The setting of an Alaskan cruise offers some great opportunities for atmosphere. The C-list Hollywood personalities likewise have good angst and conflicts . As usual, writer Sibella Giorello has done some great research that makes the mystery feel intriguing but grounded. There’s some superb misdirection and a solution that’s not immediately discernible.

The book is not without problems. I enjoyed the first three Raleigh Harmon mysteries, but I found this a frustrating read in the early going. Her internal mean girl monologues in the first section of the book seemed way off for Raleigh.

Raleigh did things that did not make sense. She got engaged to her old boyfriend and flew thousands of miles from home despite them having very little chemistry in the first books. In addition, Raleigh’s mother has had mental health problems and Raleigh fears if her mother ever finds out she’s an FBI agent she’ll have a mental breakdown. Thus, it must be kept from her at all costs. So Raleigh brings her on a cruise where she’s working on a project that’s based on her FBI agent. And she also brings along her mom’s sister and her sister’s flaky psychic friend who also know she’s with the FBI. What could go wrong?

Also, the story seems to be setting up a Seattle field agent as her ideal love interest under the theory, if you find someone utterly loathsome, they’re really the one for you. Her language and internal monologue about this agent are over the top. It feels like Giorello has things she wants to do with Raleigh and her supporting cast and is determined to do set these things up no matter what. It’s contrived in a way that I found annoying.

Once the book focuses on the mystery, the book is fine. It’s a good puzzle. However, a less contrived plot would have done it a world of good.
Rating 3.5 out of 5

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