Back on Murder by J Mark Bertrand (Roland March Mysteries #1)

Back on Murder by J Mark BertrandSummary: A police detective that has been off his game finds his way back.

I don’t read a lot of mysteries or police procedurals.  But Back on Murder has been well reviewed by several people I know.  And even more important, it has been used as an example of the potential and failure of Christian Fiction.  Mark Bertrand is the author of a trilogy of police procedural Christian Fiction books.  But he has publicly walked away from his book publisher (Bethany House) because they do not know how to market his books.

Christian fiction is known for Historical and Amish Romance, not dirty cops and murder investigations.  So I do not completely blame Bethany House, I mostly blame Christian Fiction readers for not exploring different genres.

Back On Murder has been well reviewed by a variety of Christian and secular reviewers.  It is clearly a Christian novel, but it is not a ‘hit you over the head’ with the gospel novel.

Roland March is a police detective.  He is not a Christian, if anything he is mad at God.  A personal tragedy several years before (not revealed to near the end of the book), affected him and his wife and threw his career for a loop.  He would have been fired long ago except for the fact that he used to be such a good cop.

But through several random assignments he connects seemingly different cases as related and pursues them doggedly.  A short term partner on one of the jobs connects him with a youth pastor of a missing (and presumed dead) teen.  The partner, the youth pastor and the girl’s mother are all real portraits of everyday Christians.  (The marketing describes the youth pastor as having a significant role in the story, but it is pretty minor overall.)

March does not all the sudden become a Christian at the end of the book.  But he does get some resolution and healing with his own pain in the midst of solving the related crimes.

I mostly listened to this book on audiobook but finished it on kindle.  The audiobook was a little schlocky.  The narrator was fine, but not well matched to the content.  And the stereotypical accents verged on making fun of the characters instead of bringing them to life. Had it has an appropriate narrator like James Marsters (Dresden Files) it could have really brought out the full nature of Roland March.  I eventually finished the book on kindle and I will pick up the next book to read on kindle instead of audio.

Back on Murder Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook Audiobook is discounted to $2.99 with purchase of Kindle Book


I really liked the Roland March series. I think I read Bertram was dropped by his Christian publisher which, if true, is a shame.

    My understanding it the Bertrand and Bethany House mutually agreed to separate. Bertrand didn’t think Bethany House was doing a good job marketing his books and Bethany House wasn’t making money on Bertrand’s books.

Police procedural/legal thriller/mystery is a primary genre in my reading. And the competition insofar as being “great” is stiff, so when Seth Simmons said “good but not great” I was not deterred. Everything else in his and your review drew me to ‘investigate’ the book.

I am half way through this and seriously impressed. It has all the necessary features of the genre, including a clipped, hardboiled style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. But nothing feels cliché to me. I am thoroughly enjoying Bertrand’s writing and will be looking for the others in this series.

Thank you, Adam, for your discussion above. Most interesting and insightful. My primary reading is fiction, but I eschew most Christian historical fiction for its aggravating anachronisms and almost all Christian romance (Amish or otherwise) for its foundational ‘girl gets guy and everything is fine’ worldview. That’s why I should have thought this genre would be a breath of fresh air in the Christian fiction market!

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