It is a rare author that can make you laugh out loud during scenes of greatest tension, but that is precisely what Deborah Dee Harper accomplishes in Misstep—not once, but repeatedly.
In her novel, Hugh Foster is a newly retired Air Force chaplain. He and his wife, Melanie, begin to open an inn in the small town of Road's End, Virginia. The town is populated by a number of colorful characters, mainly senior citizens. The outspoken Sadie Simms operates a coffee house and bakery, but spends much of her time chasing down escaped chickens. Emma River is the independent-minded town recluse. The pipe-smoking Leo Walling speaks rarely, and then in monosyllables. Also included are Dewey Wyandotte and his hypochondriac wife, Winnie. ("Dewey's a former Marine and Winnie looks like one.") Others equally striking complete the dramatis personae.
A blizzard of record-setting severity causes Hugh and Melanie to shelter the town's elderly people in their inn. Hugh even convinces the reluctant Emma River to join them. And a mean-looking stranger with a sour disposition wanders in from the storm. At this point Hugh finds that the church has been vandalized, with the word "killer" painted on one wall. And in the midst of the storm, four armed strangers in white snow suits lay a life-threatening siege to the town. So to Hugh falls the impossible task of organizing the town's senior citizens to cope with this threat as well as the continuing blizzard. Tension mounts with each successive discovery or development of the threat. And how can a chaplain accomplish this without compromising his faith?
As author, Deborah Dee Harper manages the increasing suspense to perfection while keeping her varied fictional persons in character and interacting appropriately. Her surprising turns of phrase are one of the high points of the novel. This book is a delight to read, and I look forward to its successors in the Road's End Series.