by Lorie Ham

ISBN 1-4137-0307-0
185 pages
Trade paperback
December 2003

Order from publisher

• Click here for a text sample of DEADLY DISCRIMINATION.

Somebody has murdered the most unpopular businessman in Kingsbury. Most folks in this picturesque northern California town are content to believe it was a 17-year-old Latino boy with a police record. The boy’s knife was found in the victim’s back, and the murder took place soon after the businessman foreclosed on the boy’s parents’ business. But, if truth be told, the real reason most folks in Kingsbury are content to blame this particular suspect is because the boy is Latino.

Prejudice, you see, is as much a point of conflict as murder in Lorie Ham’s latest mystery, DEADLY DISCRIMINATION. And that’s what makes it so special, and one I highly recommend.

Fans of Ham’s previous mysteries, MURDER IN FOUR PART HARMONY and THE TROUBLE WITH TENORS, may be saddened to learn that her gospel singing, single mom, crime solver Alexandra Walters does not appear in this new novel. If so, they won’t be disappointed for long, because her new crime solver, Pastor Mike Raffles, is as tenacious and charming as Ms.Walters. It also won’t hurt that Walters’ private investigator boyfriend, Stephen Carlucci, is Pastor Mike’s best friend and a major supporting character. For once the murderer really is the last person you would expect, although Ham plays fair with the clues throughout the story. Ham also does an excellent job of presenting the kind of prejudice that can exist beneath the surface of even a quaint town as Kingsbury or in a so-called “enlightened” state as California, as well as the type of resistance that can arise and challenge bigotry when it is brought to light. Pastor Mike believes that most people, rather or not they are Christian, are good and will prove it if given a chance. In DEADLY DISCRIMINATION he puts his faith in people on the line, and, like a true hero, doesn’t flinch from his beliefs even when things look their darkest.

The problem of illegal aliens is a hot button topic across the country, especially after President Bush’s recent proposal to offer amnesty to illegals now working in the United States. What too many Americans once dismissed as a problem for Californians, Arizonans and Texans has become one that has and will continue to affect people throughout our country. In the months ahead there will be a lot of articles and textbooks published about the ramifications and possible solutions to this problem. But these will all be non-fiction, while one of the great things about fiction is its ability to take any topic and humanize it by running it through its paces through a series of realistic events.

DEADLY DISCRIMINATION is just such a book.

Ham sets you in the middle of a mystery that involves illegal aliens, presenting clues at the same time presenting different sides to the problems of illegals. While challenging readers to solve the businessman’s murder, Ham likewise challenges them to decide what their beliefs about this problem are or reconsider previously held beliefs. This is just the kind of story that a master wordsmith like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who never backed away from the challenge of championing a cause in his fiction, would appreciate.

DEADLY DISCRIMINATION will entertain you and make you think. If that isn’t as good as it gets, I don’t know what is.

— Steven Philip Jones, author of “The Bushwhackers,” a new western coming in August from Avalon Books, the mystery-adventure King Of Harlem and author of over 60 comic book stories. Visit StevenPJones.com.

This mystery novel by local writer, Lorie Ham, is well worth reading. Ham sets her novels in the Fresno area, using vaguely shielded names for the small towns, which provide the unique atmosphere for her books.

This story deals with the fact that racial discrimination exists and poisons even small-town America. Her characters are well drawn and appealing. The details of small-town life are authentic and especially interesting to Central Valley people since it’s easy to picture some of our local towns in her descriptions.

Lorie Ham has a well-developed ability to hold her mystery so that the final conclusions are a surprise and she combines suspense with a Christian viewpoint. Her characters are varied enough to give her a chance to deal with an issue like discrimination from several perspectives.

Ham has written two other novels, Murder in Four Part Harmony, and Trouble with Tenors. These are also set in the Fresno area.

— Tim Kahn, former publisher of the Central Valley Christian.

DEADLY DISCRIMINATION is a classic whodunit with motives and clues a-plenty. I thought I had the perp pegged, but got a big surprise at the end. It’s Agatha Christie meets Jan Karon…a mystery lover’s delight.

— Rosey Dow, Christy Award winner.

Pastor Mike Raffles glows with optimism as he relocates from New Orleans to Kingsbury, California. However, the quiet simple life of a small town farming community seems more like home when someone murders Toews, an individual universally detested though he was to be the Grand Marshal in the upcoming parade. After a public incident between Toews and the Martinez family and the location of the body, police hone in on the Mexican-American community. They quickly arrest teenager Eddie Martinez.

Pastor Mike has problems with the rush to judgment as he feels many townsfolk regardless of race, religion or national origin had motives to kill the obnoxious victim. With the help of a private sleuth, Mike makes his own inquiries and begins to believe that a form of de facto prejudicial profiling led to the arrest of Eddie without looking at the full possibilities. Mike needs to uncover the real culprit and expose discrimination for how worthless and negatively crippling a practice it is.

DEADLY DISCRIMINATION is categorized as a Christian amateur sleuth, but though Mike is a pastor and provides sermons against discrimination, the tale is more a deep look at the implications and fallout from prejudice. Mike is a delightful protagonist who seems to have it together, but loses a bit of his inner peace by the novel’s end as the incidents impact him (he is human). The townsfolk for the most part are decent pious people yet many look down on the Mexican-Americans living there as being beneath them. The message is deep, but it is cleverly interwoven into the who-done-it investigation by Mike and pals so that the audience regardless of religion will appreciate a powerful mystery.

— Harriet Klausner, Midwest Book Review.

Lorie Ham writes very nice Christian mysteries. She has both a series starring her gospel-singing amateur sleuth Alex Walters and a standalone mystery, DEADLY DISCRIMINATION, with Pastor Mike Raffles as an unlikely investigator.

DEADLY DISCRIMINATION is out as of this month. It is a very good story. Lorie has “warned” readers about the Christian focus, but I think anyone would enjoy the story of this new pastor who finds that a deadly pattern of discrimination has caused the wrong person, a Mexican teen, to be arrested for the murder of a prominent, but universally disliked, town citizen.

Pastor Raffles is in a good position to ask questions, and his empathetic manner generally gets answers from everyone. But there are forces in the town who don’t want their activities looked into and would prefer that the crime continue to be attributed to Eddie, the young Mexican kid who faces murder charges. The pastor faces some minor threats, but he refuses to back down on his stance against prejudice. The ending is both gradual, surprising, and sad. No one really wins in this story.

Pastor Mike doesn’t preach–he’s a sensitive man with a clear vision of what it means to be a Christian, but he doesn’t get in anyone’s face about it. Readers are treated to two partial sermons on the subject of discrimination as the pastor faces the dissatisfaction of some of his parishoners who belong to a white supremist group.

This story also reflects the way of life in a small California town where everyone knows everyone and hides and tolerates a little too much. It is a story where secrets and the desire to keep them destroys lives, causing pain for guilty and innocent alike. There is a message here, but it certainly does not detract from the mystery.

Lorie is developing as a writer and she has many stories to tell. I recommend her Christian mysteries for those of the faith or anyone who likes cozy but serious mysteries.

— Nancy Marple (originally posted on DorothyLDigest).

When Pastor Mike Raffles moved to the farming community of Kingsbury, California he thought he was retreating to a quiet town where all of the neighbors were friendly and where he could build a peaceful congregation. However, he soon realizes that the quiet town is not so quiet, as a businessman’s dealings are enraging nearly everyone since he will soon be forcing many local shops to go out of business. When he is found stabbed to death just before leading the town’s parade in a fair suspicion immediately falls on Eddie Martinez, a Mexican-American teenager with a history of juvenile crime and whose family Mr. Toews had recently engaged in an angry confrontation. Appeals from Eddie’s family proclaiming his innocence soon has Mike questioning the quick arrest and the reasons behind it. There’s a plethora of suspects, as it emerges that even Toews’ family had reasons to hate him.

Just as disturbing to Mike as the murder is the discovery, following his spot on a radio show, of racism and hostility towards the Mexican-Americans who live in the community. When the local white supremacy organization begins to pressure Mike to stop his pleas for peace and his support of Eddie, Mike puts both his position within the church and his life at risk.

Mike Raffles is an engaging hero who is at peace with himself and his beliefs and who wants to create the best congregation possible. Mike’s relationship with Steve Carlucci, his childhood best friend, is appealing and very humorous as the two harass each other with the nicknames “Preacher Boy” and “Heathen Boy.” The two have an usual friendship, as the private detective (crossing over from Lorie Ham’s other series featuring Alexandra Walters) is an atheist whom Mike continues to attempt to lead towards the Christian faith. The two make a good team though, as Steve provides the muscle and street smarts while Mike brings in the heart. Ham also perfectly describes the setting of the California farming community and the clash of cultures that occurs between whites and the Mexican-Americans. Although this is labeled a “Christian” mystery the engaging characters and universal theme of racism make it accessible to all readers. This is an enjoyable read full of humor, suspense, and heart.

— Cynthia Chow, Kaneohe Public Library, Oahu, Hawaii.

I’d like to add my praise for Lorie Ham’s DEADLY DISCRIMINATION. It’s an intriguing mystery involving a small-town preacher who faces the politics and ugly bigotry in a small California town and the same problems in his own church and even in the Christian radio station where he works part time. Unfortunately, many of the obstacles Pastor Mike must overcome are far too realistic. As with all Lorie’s books, it’s an enjoyable read.

— Marilyn Meredith, mystery author. Read about all her books at FictionForYou.com.