A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, December 8, 2014

Return to Sender by Mindy S. Halleck Virtual Book Tour- Review+ Giveaway

Return to Sender

by Mindy Halleck



1955 ~ Father Theo Riley never wanted to be a priest, nor a killer. The former boxing champion and Korean War veteran gave up more than a career when he went into the Army. He lost the only thing he ever wanted: his love, Andréa Bouvre. Friends thought Theo entered the priesthood to mend his broken heart or atone for the massacred orphans he couldn’t save in Korea.

However, the truth is much darker and more damning, tied to a blood debt and family secret that has haunted Theo since he was a boy. He drinks to forget he ever had a life of his own—waits for death, prays for mercy, and hopes for a miracle. He gets all three when a child goes missing, another shows up on his doorstep, and the love of his life drives back into his world; the seaside hamlet of Manzanita Oregon.

Theo’s dream reunion with Andréa becomes a nightmare when a serial killer who considers himself a holy man targets the town and everyone Theo loves. Drinking days decidedly behind him, Theo and some old warriors set out to send evil back to hell and a few good souls to heaven in RETURN TO SENDER.



Excerpt One:

POV of protagonist, Theo Riley;

All night I listened for cars, footsteps, noises that didn’t belong. All night, every sound reminded me of Korea’s Karst Caves: sounds, smells, threats hidden in every echo. I tried to recall in which letter I wrote to Andréa about the noisy bats. Was it October ’52, or later?

The children had been terrified of the Daubenton bats that built colonies inside the caves. At night, the scratching sounds and flapping wings was as threatening to them as the sound of footsteps and the CCF running up on us at night was to me. The nun told them the bats were good luck, there to protect us, that they stayed awake at night to keep watch.

The oldest boy, Hai-bin, was the first to call me “Teo.” He rolled his eyes back in his head when the nun said that. In any other world, he’d have been a budding teenager full of angst and attitude, not an undernourished warrior ready to fight, ready to die, not old enough to understand the meaning of either. Not old enough to understand any of Korea’s madness. But then, who was?

As the days, nights, and weeks had gone on, those brave orphans folded the strange noises from the waking Daubenton bats into that place where they carried the heavy, heavy burden of acceptance—they slept through the night with those mysterious guardians taking flight above them. They slept. It became part of their new existence. An existence brittle and rickety as the bamboo bridges that sooner or later would lead us back to a world ablaze outside those caves.

Return to SenderReturn to Sender by Mindy Halleck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Return to Sender by Mindy S. Halleck is 2014 Booktrope publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Return to Sender is a multi- genre novel with many layers which intertwine. Set back in the era immediately following the Korean war and centered geographically around Oregon, the story follows Father Theodore Riley from his childhood to his return from the war and his subsequently entering the priesthood , something he felt he must do to honor his mother, who dreamed of having a son become a priest, and to pay the penance for his deeds which haunt him daily.

The horror of war, the loss of the love of his life to another, and the return home to find his sister in emotional pain and that his town has a dark underbelly of crime involving missing and dead children had Theo embracing the bottle a little too much.

The crime is a major thread in the book, the death of children running throughout, gives the story a dark and edgy atmosphere. However, the reader is also concerned for Theo and this life he has chosen. It is obvious he is only going the motions of priesthood. His heart is broken about the loss of Andrea, the girl he left behind when he went away to war. His sister is only a shell of the girl he remembers, and now he is dealing with his job as part of a prison ministry, which has put his family at risk.

The narrative explores the town, the diversity, the Shaman who advices Theo, and the darling little girl who makes an appearance in the middle of the book, which helps to fill out the story and gives it an additional perspective which I felt was badly needed, as at times Theo was just too dark and depressing, as of course is most of the subject matter. Naturally, we all wonder about Andrea because we know she is around and we want to know what went on with her while Theo was away, because she did feel as though Theo's duties took a priority over their relationship and love and it's not until Theo knows she has moved on without him that he realizes he should have been more sympathetic to her point of view and now he is torn up over it. So, for awhile I wasn't sure how to feel about this woman who has done as much damage to him as the war itself perhaps.

For a first novel this is exceptionally done. The problem I had was that at times the story seemed to move very slowly with the crime element, and certainly took it's time getting down to the heart of the matter which was the love story between Andrea and Theo and getting all the answers we craved. Once we did finally have confirmation of what some readers will have suspected, it was a bit anti-climatic. The explanation is one that was a bit shocking and more than cruel, but one I have encountered before from time to time in novels. So, I had to wonder how often something like this really happened to people separated by war. I would like to have seen the pace picked up a bit in the midsection and perhaps allow us to see a little more inside the relationship between Theo and Andrea in the last quarter of the book.

The crimes and the criminals are more than creepy and will give you the shivers. The subject matter is difficult since there are children and abuse involved and a screwed up way of looking at religion which could be hard for some readers to digest.

Overall, this is one of those thinking man novels that adds a flair of literary fiction and offers more than the basic crime solving elements, and digs deep into the psychological aspects of life , the scars, the pain, the crushing reality of war, loss, fear, evil, but also offers us hope, peace, redemption and justice and most of all love.
4.5 rounded to 5

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Mindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, The Sound of Rain, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her first novel Return to Sender. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com


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  1. I like the mysterious cover and title.

  2. Replies
    1. Hey Karen H, thanks for reading and for following the tour. I appreciate it. Mindy

  3. Thanks so much for the review!

    Trix, vitajex(at)aol(Dot)com

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Rita, I also thought it was a good and honest review. Mindy

  5. I liked the excerpt and good review.


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