Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello

The Clouds Roll Away: A Raleigh Harmon Novel
by Sibella Giorello
Copyright 2010
Thomas Nelson - Suspense/Christian
322 pages

Whenever I thought I was right, I forgot to listen for the sibilant whisper. Hearing only my own counsel, my righteous insistence, I failed to hear the asp slithering through the grass. It was only later, in the messy aftermath, that I began to peel away the justifications and rationalizations, the false logic and shifting blame, until I was left with one small dark object, resting in the palm of my hand like an apple seed.
My hasty choice.

After several months working in the FBI's Seattle office (as punishment, possibly for insubordination but I never quite figured that out), Raleigh Harmon has barely settled into her home in Richmond, Virginia when a cross is burned on the lawn of a plantation owned by a celebrity rapper known as "RPM". Hate crimes are high-profile, high-priority cases and Raleigh, a forensic geologist, has a limited amount of time to solve the crime.

Raleigh's personal life is just as messy as her job. Her widowed mother, Nadine, suddenly wants to celebrate Christmas for the first time since her husband was murdered and she also seems determined to place Raleigh in the path of Raleigh's former boyfriend, DeMott. And Nadine's companion is suddenly angry and distant after he begins to work as a photographer for the targeted rapper.

As Raleigh digs deeper to solve the crime, she slowly uncovers a tangled web that leads in unexpected directions with interconnected crimes testing her skills and a boss and home life forcing her to rely heavily on her faith to guide her and provide clarity.

What I liked about The Clouds Roll Away:

I'm not much of a suspense/mystery reader, but this particular book sounded so fascinating that I signed up for a book tour. And, I have to say . . . wow. I was really impressed. Raleigh Harmon is a fascinating character and in The Clouds Roll Away, the author pretty much plunks her in the middle of a ring of fire with a cup of water (metaphorically speaking). The challenges she faces, both personally and professionally, are so overwhelming that you can't help but race through the book.

I was absolutely dying to know what would happen and surprised by how beautifully the author tied together seemingly diverse strands and then had her character solve the crime while dealing with a boss who obviously couldn't stand her, a mother who was either flipping out or suddenly improving (a conundrum that carried a startling ring of truth) and a shaken faith as her father's murder remained unsolved.

The Clouds Roll Away is the second in a series and it stands alone fine, but it's so well written that I want to read the first book, merely on the merits of the second -- although, I also wouldn't mind knowing what exactly Raleigh did to end up getting sent to Seattle. If that was described, it didn't stick with me. Raleigh is one tough cookie. I love the character.

What I disliked about The Clouds Roll Away:

Since The Clouds Roll Away is a Thomas Nelson publication, you have to expect some talk about God -- and, as a Christian, I like a "clean" (no sex, no bad language -- but this one does have some graphic description of crime scenes) read. I appreciated that about this book but I thought occasionally the segue into thoughts about faith was a little odd and didn't quite fit the tone.

Raleigh's thoughts about God and faith become less jarring the farther you get into the story, though, so I think it was really a case of not knowing the character and where she was coming from. Once I got to know Raleigh, her thoughts started to make a lot more sense and didn't seem to just come out of the blue. I did occasionally get tripped up by her writing style, which can be a little confusing at times, but there was never a point that I felt hopelessly lost.

A rather irrelevant side note:

There was one minor error that I thought was rather interesting. Raleigh refers to a record her mother is playing as an "RPM". I assume the author wasn't around in the days of vinyl because "RPM" stands for "revolutions per minute" and refers to the speed at which a vinyl album was played -- or would be, if you still had your old record player and you haven't gotten rid of your old vinyl. I think she meant an "LP" or long-playing album, as opposed to a single but that's just picky details. I can't believe I'm so old that the music I grew up with (some of which is still tucked in a cabinet) is now referred to as "antique". Eeks.

The bottom line:

Stunning writing, a complex and satisfying mystery and a kick-butt heroine make this book a page-turner. The book gets a family warning for graphic description of crime scenes but is otherwise clean -- no bad language, no sex, just lots of emotion and a rocking fine plot.

Cover thoughts:

The cover doesn't exactly scream, "Suspense! Mystery!" It looks placid, actually, and I think it's absolutely beautiful but it did surprise me that the crimes involved were so intense and even a bit on the gory side. And, yet, the book is as much about Raleigh returning to her hometown during a snowy Christmas and facing her own personal demons as it is about Raleigh Harmon solving a crime. After closing the book, I think the cover fits. It's got a pensive look, an image of the character that fits (before her haircut -- you have to read it to get the implications that come with the haircut) and the snowy Richmond setting. It's really perfect.

FTC notice:

I received a copy of The Clouds Roll Away for a book tour. My thanks to Thomas Nelson and LitFuse for the review copy.

Coming up:

I actually kept meticulous notes on the books that entered and left my house, this past week! I'll write about them in a separate post very soon; and, after I write my review of Why We Need Love, I'll also post a round-up of my November reads.

I've been holding off on the November list until I've managed to review everything I finished reading in November, so that I can provide links to all of my reviews. And, then I believe I have one or two more reviews and I'll take off a couple of weeks from blogging for Christmas break and ponder my reading and life resolutions for next year. Yes, I still do that -- Lord knows why. It's not like I'm good at keeping my resolutions, but I still plan to try. Are you making plans for 2011?

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Wish this comment was as "scathingly brilliant" as your review, but I am humbled into simple words: Thank you.
    Nancy, that review was lovely. I'm so glad you came to like Raleigh, and stayed through her latest adventure.

    Thank you again. And Merry Christmas.

    Sibella Giorello

  2. Sibella,

    Thanks for stopping by! I love Raleigh and . . . kind of funny . . . thought she would make a great Alaskan because she's so tough. And, then I read your bio and had to laugh at having had that thought. :)

    Merry Christmas!!

  3. I love this series. I am glad you liked this book.

    I am thinking seriously about my life and next year too. I read somewhere that resultions don't work but goals do. So I am working on goals for the next year. lol :)

  4. Brittanie,

    I didn't realize you've read anything in this series, but I miss posts, now and then. I'll have to look to see what you said.

    Resolutions and goals seem like pretty much the same thing to me. Huh. I'll have to think about that. I need to make some changes -- some of them drastic.

  5. Great review. I sometimes wonder if an editor has required that a smattering of "religion" or "sex" be plonked into a book. Very good observations.

  6. Cozy Ann,

    Well, I know all publishers have "guidelines" and how much leeway they're willing to give (whether a book is steamy enough or clean enough, for example) probably depends a lot on who happens to be on a committee when manuscripts are being discussed. I used to write fiction. Can you tell? LOL

    I think most writers get an idea about what a publisher likes from reading its books, though, and there are definite trends. In Christian publishing, it seems like the trend is moving away from preachy books to more subtle mentions of God and religion; and, in romance . . . well, there are definitely lines that are deliberately geared more toward the erotic and some that are more family-oriented than others. It's really quite fascinating!!


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