Book Reviews / Contests & Giveaways

The Mountains Bow Down on Tour

The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello

Review & Blog Tour {+ Cruise Giveaway}

Today we are pleased to be a part of the Blog Tour for Sibella Giorello’s latest Raleigh Harmon mystery, The Mountains Bow Down.  We’ve got a review of course, but we’ve also got some other tour goodies and details on Sibella’s Cruise Giveaway and Facebook Party.  Enjoy.

About The Mountains Bow Down:

Everything’s going to work out. Time away always makes things better . . .That’s what FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, The Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who’s hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh’s vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship’s security chief tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh’s forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the FBI and receives her nemesis-perpetual ladies man Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack-who might not be such a jerk after all.And that’s only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a situation so steep and so complex that even the mountains might bow down.

The Review:

I sort of put off reading this book.  I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just my natural tendency towards procrastination, but I think it was more than that.  I’m always a little nervous when first picking up a title from an author whose work is new to me, as this was.  I’m kind of a sucker for female FBI agents in suspense, but I’ve seen it done enchantingly and well… not so well.  I was holding my breath, and tensed a bit as I started this book, not sure which category it would fall into, and literally felt my body relax with relief as I read the first few pages and realized almost instantly this was a book I was going to enjoy reading.

The Writing
Much of my instant connection with the book, had nothing to do with the plot.  It was the writing.  Sibella Giorello is quite simply a fabulous writer.  She is the kind of writer who loves words. She writes tight and smart and imbues her narrative character with the kind of voice that I could have mistaken for my own. There is zero clunkiness to this novel.  Nothing to trip you up or take you out of the story, it simply flows. And her writing is original. The book is peppered with authentic descriptions and dialogue that give color to a picture so flawless you feel a part of the action. She never resorts to tired cliche’s or sloppy portraiture and I loved her for that.  It’s not that her style is poetic, as much as disarmingly fresh.

“The nubile Mrs. Sparks climbed the four steps to the edge of ht hot tub, then made a slow descent into the water.  Perhaps it was the pile of vanilla hair on her sticklike body, but she reminded me of an ice-cream cone dipping itself in melted chocolate” – {Ch. 6}

She also won bonus point in my geeky book for including words that I actually had to look up.  Yes in a suspense novel. Unapologetically, one of the surest ways to my nerdy little heart is to surprise me by letting me learn something!  And Giorello did not disappoint on many fronts here.  She not only taught me a few words, she taught me about the beauty of Alaska and the working class underbelly of the cruise industry, and she somehow even managed to hold me fascinated by mini lessons in geology.

I was not at all surprised to finish the book and realize that her writing has been nominated for two Pulitzers.

The Concept
FBI Agent Raleigh Harmon from Giorello’s earlier novels steps back up for a suspense thriller set aboard an Alaskan cruise.  I’m wouldn’t call the murder on the high seas concept entirely unique, but it was a story I hadn’t read before.  In fact, it was one of the things that made me fall in love with the story. I suppose wanted to experience the world of a luxury cruiseliner for a while, and in this the The Mountains Bow Down is a breathtaking getaway, even if the trip turns out to be anything but a vacation for our heroine.

The Plot
When the wife of a famous Hollywood action-star filming his latest sequel on the cruise turns up dead, Raleigh’s vacation dissolves into a race to find the killer and recover evidence before the cruise ends and all her suspects walk off free.  She is reunited with Jack Stephanson, another agent who she thought she couldn’t stand.  The plot threw quite a few twisty surprises at me.  Everything that could possibly go wrong for poor Raleigh including many things I couldn’t have anticipated going wrong, did. Again, this was a tight mystery plot that surprised me in its ability to keep one step ahead of me in my quest for whodunnit.

The Characters
This book is worth a read for the characters alone.  Especially Raleigh and Jack, but also her wacky extended family and many of the cruise line employees.  There is a lot of originality here. The characters are well-developed and unique for the most part.  A few of the Hollywood types came off a little clichéd to me, especially compared to the excellent complex characterization of almost every other character in the book.  They had a few quirks, yes, but it still felt a bit like typecasting to me.  That said, her mother and the story line there was well done and compelling, and I felt like the ships employees including Geert, head of security were well done.  I have to say also, in my mind I kept reverting to characters from Bones as I was reading this.  Jack was Agent Booth in my mind and while Raleigh wasn’t quite a Temperance, she was more feisty and innocent, I saw her as Hannah.  A few other characters slipped in as well, and in fact it kind of felt like I was reading one long episode of the show.  Let me make it clear this is not a bad thing in my mind, folks.  Bones is one of the best shows on television in my not so humble opinion and has by far the most interesting characters you are likely to come across in prime time.  Giorello’s characters gave me that super cool, quirky and fascinating vibe I love from the show.

Christian Suspense
I did just want to mention that this is considered a Christian suspense work. It’s not something I am usually drawn to, but Giorello is not at all blatant in making this a Christian work. It is a clean read, certainly, with a character in possession of a strong moral compass, and a set of beliefs through which she views the world. But, it is first and foremost an excellent mystery.  Second, perhaps a character drama.  As we get closer to the end she drops in a few narratives from Raleigh that make her beliefs more overt, but you also get the sense that while our heroine is unwavering in her faith, she is struggling, human. It struck a nice balance for me.

I know that some have come to this book looking for it to be an affirmation of faith and find it sparse on the “God is Great” front.  It was the right choice for this story.  Even the times that she does subtly push the character’s spiritual thoughts to the forefront feel a little out-of-place against all the action here. I felt a touch uncomfortable with it, as I did with the ever so slight characterization of those who had other belief systems, or were more human in their frailties as either crackpots or morally bankrupt, while her beliefs were certainly never challenged.  It was true faith, less rational than most FBI agents portrayed in fiction, but I’m decidedly not the target Christian demographic and I could easily accept it as part of Raleigh’s character. I was certainly nowhere close to feeling pushed away from finishing the book, which is another testament to the writing. Ultimately this is not a story about faith.  It is a mystery, and adding too much of the character’s opinions on the subject might have made her come across as self-righteous and preachy. I appreciated the subtlety.

The Wrap Up
Overall, this is an engaging read and a satisfying mystery. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a world I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend suspense lovers lose themselves in for a little while.  It’s also worth a read for the strongly developed quirky characters, and the simply fabulous, smart writing style. I’ll definitely be looking for Giorello’s next book in the series, The Stars Shine On due early next year.

My Rating:

Cover Story: B-

This cover is not my favorite of the series.  It’s missing that mysterious vibe, and looks a little more like a travel memoir.  That said, it’s a perfect depiction of one of the first scenes in the book and it brings to life the author’s stunning descriptions of Alaska.

Little Details
Finished Copy Courtesy of LitFuse Publicity
Title: The Mountains Bow Down by Sibella Giorello
Series: A Raleigh Harmon Novel
Genre: Adult, Christian, Suspense
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (March 1, 2011)
ISBN:  978-1595545350
{ Goodreads | Amazon }

The Author

Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Sibella and her other books at her website. www.sibellagiorello.com

Want more Raleigh Harmon?

Sibella is offering a chance to start the series fresh with this great deal! Pick up a copy of Book 1 for your Kindle or Nook for only $2.99! The Stones Roll Away is the critically acclaimed award winner that kicked off the Raleigh Harmon series. Find it Here!

The Mountains Bow Down CRUISE Giveaway

Sibella’s celebrating the release of The Mountains Bow Down by giving away a Cruise prize pack worth over $500.00!

One Grand Prize winner will receive:

  • A $500 gift certificate toward the cruise of their choice from Vacations To Go.
  • The entire set of the Raleigh Harmon series.

To Enter Click Below:

Enter via E-mailEnter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


Then tell your friends. And enter soon – the giveaway ends on 4/1! The winner will be announced at Sibella’s Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on FB April 5th, 2011! Don’t miss the fun – prizes, books and gab!


The Facebook Party

Join Sibella and fans of the Raleigh Harmon series on April 5th at 5:00 pm PST (6 MST, 7 CST & 8 EST) for a Facebook Book Club Party. Sibella will be giving away some fun prizes, testing your trivia skills and hosting a book chat about the Raleigh Harmon books. Please RSVP  and if you have questions you’d like to chat about – leave them on the Event page.

Blog Tour Schedule

Be sure and stop by the other sites on the tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts and more.

You can get the full schedule for Sibella’s Tour here.

Today’s Stops (3/24)

Loren at  Heart of a Bookworm

Beth at  For the Love of Books

Brooke at  I Blog 4 Books

Stacy at  A Novel Source

Relz Reviewz

Jodie at  Mom’s Pace

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2 thoughts on “The Mountains Bow Down on Tour

  1. Well, I’m certainly glad the book wormed its way into your nerdy-wordy heart!

    Seriously, thank you for this thoughtful review, and your attention to subtle details. You’re the reader authors dream of.

    Thanks again,

    sibella

    • Hi Sibella,

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you found the review thoughtful. ( I knew I had a thought in there somewhere!) Please do keep the nerd-food coming!

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