Friday, August 12, 2011

A Question of Courage by Megan Magill

Publisher:          Regal Crest Enterprises

A Question of Courage picks up the story of Jess Maddocks where it left off in Magill's earlier novel A Question of Integrity.  Because Jess refused to help her employer commit a fraud, she's now out of work.  Her friend Grace, who is a veterinarian, is living in Jess's house, which puts stress on Jess.  She would like Grace to be more than a friend, but Jess feels that she is too fat and undesirable to be attractive to someone as wonderful as Grace.  If she could just lose enough weight, even though people say she doesn't need to, maybe Grace would love her.  Her brother Nick provides the answer to several problems when he asks her to come investigate the disappearances of several children from the camp where he has been working.  Jess will be employed as the archery teacher and she'll be in an isolated setting where she can control her food and stick to one of her dangerous diets.  All she has to do is poke around a little and find out what is going on.  She's about to experience two threats to her health, one from people who don't want her investigating the children and the other from her foolish eating habits. Meanwhile, Grace is going to try to convince the woman she already loves that she needs to be more careful about a lot of things.

The best way to describe this book is as a mystery wrapped in a bigger message.  The situation at the camp carries the story from scene to scene, but the really interesting study is Jess herself.  She is a classic example of a woman with low self esteem who fails to see the strengths that others seen in her and instead focuses on an imaginary flaw.  As she progresses to more and more extreme behavior, the reader is given a good picture of the spiral people can put themselves into without knowing it.  The pain that her friends and brother experience as they watch her waste away is very apparent.  The situation at the camp is interesting, but what is happening to Jess is like watching a train wreck in progress.  The question is if she'll solve the mystery before she does irreversible damage to herself.

A Question of Courage is a good sequel, but it also stands alone, so the reader doesn't have to have read the first book.  It's fine for several hours of reading, but occasional pauses may be necessary to keep from screaming in frustration at Jess and what she does to herself.

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