By JODELLE GREINER

Lifestyles Editor

You can now get the six-book O’Malley series by Dee Henderson in two hardcover special edition books called the O’Malley Chronicles. You might want to make the investment.

Harold Spragg, manager of Bible Factory Outlet, is the one who kept encouraging me to read the O’Malley series. I had never read Dee Henderson’s work before, so I was a bit hesitant.

Then I noticed the first one, “The Negotiator,” was specially priced, so I figured why not? After I read Kate’s story, I had to go back and get the other ones, including the prequel “Danger in the Shadows,” which is not part of the new hardcover editions.

If you’re going to read this series, however, you might as well start with “Danger” and introduce yourself to some characters you’ll be meeting again.

“Danger in the Shadows”

Sara Walsh was kidnapped as a child and went through a harrowing ordeal. She was rescued, but her nightmare didn’t end. Even as an adult, she continues to get threatening messages and spends her life in hiding, protected by the FBI, moving from one place to another, never sure when her agent/brother, Dave Richman, will throw her to the ground or into a car to whisk her to a new location.

Sara has accepted that this is the way her life is: it’s the only way she’s known since she was 6 years old. She has her brother and her writing and, thanks in part to her faith in God, has learned to be content.

Until she meets Adam Black.

Adam is intrigued by Sara when he meets her in an office building elevator during a storm, but he doesn’t understand why she refuses to consider more than a friendship between them.

Adam was a professional football player and, in his retirement, is still a very public figure with endorsements and public appearances. A romance between them is impossible due to Sara’s absolute need for privacy.

Against her better judgment, Sara spends more and more time with Adam. Slowly, she tells Adam about what happened to her and why that means she can never be more than his friend.

Even after knowing the worst, Adam still feels he and Sara can have a future. He’s trusting God to work it out even if that means he will have to go into hiding with her.

Adam’s determination to be with her has tipped the scales of Sara’s life. No matter how hard she tries, the pieces of her life no longer fit neatly together, like they did when it was just her and her brother. To make a life with Adam, Sara will have to find the missing pieces of her abduction that are locked away in her memory — and track down the man who wants to kill her.

The suspense is great and the danger to Sara is real, so her reactions are appropriate, not overblown. Her journey from accepting her situation to wanting to fight is well-done by Henderson.

A lot of works that portray women in jeopardy work like a fairy tale — the prince has to come and rescue the princess. I liked the fact that Sara is the one who has to save herself, by tapping into her memories and remembering what’s needed to crack the case. Nobody can do it for her.

“The Negotiator”

FBI agent Dave Richman has spent years protecting his sister, Sara, from a kidnapper bent on trying to kill her. The stakes were high and he learned to never make a mistake. Taking care of Sara was one thing, taking care of Kate O’Malley is going to be another.

Unlike Sara who knew she needed to live in the shadows, Kate is a hostage negotiator with the Chicago police department and used to taking her lumps on the basketball court with her brothers.

Kate’s family is anything but normal: seven kids who met in an orphanage and decided to make their own family. They chose the name O’Malley and, now all in their 30s, they’ve seen each other through some scary situations. What they don’t know is the worst is yet to come.

When someone blows up a plane and mentions Kate, her past comes crashing back down on her. There are some things she’s never even told her big brother, Marcus.

In addition to Kate’s crisis, youngest sister Jennifer has called an O’Malley family meeting. None of the siblings knows what Jennifer wants to talk about, but Kate finds out that Jennifer has more than one bit of news to share — and all of it will rock the O’Malley family’s world.

How can Kate deal with what’s going on in both her professional and personal lives? And what is she supposed to do with Dave Richman? She feels herself drawn to the man, but he won’t consider being any more than friends because she’s not a Christian and Kate has a real problem with God. She tells Dave, “If your God existed, my job should not.”

But Kate doesn’t have a lot of time to work it all out. The person who blew up the plane has her firmly in their sights.

Once again, Henderson has written a story about a woman in peril, but has given her the skills and smarts to figure out how to help herself.

Kate is independent and struggles with leaning on God. Because of her past, she has problems seeing God as a loving Father. It’s a common problem for a lot of people, who wonder, “If God were really all-powerful, why does He allow evil to exist?” Maybe, like Kate, so we can find our own answers.

“The Guardian”

Marcus O’Malley is a U.S. Marshal and handles the tough cases. And they don’t come much tougher than this: a federal judge has been murdered and his speechwriter is the only one who can identify the killer.

Keeping Shari Hanford alive long enough to testify is going to take everything that Marcus and his team have because the killer is smart and there’s no way he can afford to let her live. And he’s shown he’s not afraid to take risks to get the job done.

For Marcus, the situation is more complicated than usual: he’s attracted to Shari and wishes he could have gotten to know her under different circumstances. Plus, Shari’s a Christian and Marcus gave up on God as a child after God refused to answer his most important prayer.

Praying has always been an important part of Shari Hanford’s life, until she saw Carl Whitmore killed. Carl was more than just a judge and the man she wrote speeches for, he was an old family friend, like a second father to Shari. Now he’s dead and Shari’s father and brother were seriously wounded in the same attack. Reeling from Carl’s death and the injuries to her family, Shari feels like God isn’t even listening to her prayers any more, so how can she help Marcus with the questions he has about prayer?

Adding to Marcus’ dilemma is that all Jennifer’s secrets are out and she needs him. Marcus has always taken care of his family since he met Kate at the orphanage, before the others arrived, but he can’t leave Shari. Now, he has to depend on the others to be there for Jennifer until he can sneak away to see her.

But the killer has found out where they are hiding Shari and he’s closing in...

“The Guardian” is the first of the series to feature a male in the lead role and Henderson handles the switch well.

She shows how Marcus is being pulled in two by his duty to protect Shari and his desire to be with his sister. In order to cope, he has to learn to let his siblings help Jennifer, just like he has to learn that God has a reason for not answering prayers the way we want.

“The Truth Seeker”

Lisa O’Malley is a forensics pathologist, uncovering what the dead tell her about their final moments. Old skeletons have been found and what they are telling Lisa is that they were killed in the same manner by the same person.

And that person is still out there.

When the killer makes a move against Lisa, her brother Marcus’ partner in the U.S. Marshals, Quinn Diamond, decides he’ll protect her. Lisa knows she has to accept Quinn’s protection — Marcus won’t hear of an alternative — but she doesn’t have to like it. She knows Quinn has a thing for the O’Malley women — and she has no intention of being the next one on the list.

Not only does Lisa have a tense mystery going on at work, her personal life swings between two extremes: she’s preparing for an O’Malley family wedding and coping with Jennifer’s problems. To top it off, working with Quinn on this case has brought back old memories from her past as a foster child, things she hasn’t even told her brothers and sisters. Will Lisa keep her secrets or trust Quinn to see her through?

Quinn’s got demons of his own. His father was murdered years ago and the killer was never found. The more Lisa uncovers about the dead women, the more Quinn believes it’s related to his father’s death and the teenage girl who disappeared at the same time. Will helping Lisa solve her mystery solve his?

Additionally, it hurts Quinn that Lisa doesn’t even want to consider the possibility that Jesus rose from the dead. How can he explain the Resurrection to someone who sees death every day?

And how can they work together when Lisa is keeping secrets? Secrets that might get her killed?

Because another woman is missing — and this time, it’s Lisa.

I think Lisa was my favorite of the O’Malley girls because she is so complex. Some writers make their heroines all sound alike; Henderson does a good job of making Lisa a separate person, she’s not a carbon copy of Kate at all. Yes, Lisa is intelligent and determined to do her job, just like Kate, but she’s extremely insecure, due to her past as a foster child.

And Lisa’s past is the barrier to her accepting the Resurrection and believing in God. She knows more about what happens to the human body at death than most people ever will, but sometimes knowing the facts isn’t enough. Sometimes, you have to trust your instincts.

“The Protector”

Jack O’Malley has been fascinated by fire since before he lost his parents. It was a natural that he’d become a firefighter. The joker of the O’Malley family, he finds nothing funny about an arsonist setting fires in his district.

And when a fellow firefighter sees the arsonist at a scene, the stakes rise like smoke in the sky.

Cassie Ellis didn’t get a real good look at the arsonist, but the arsonist doesn’t know that. Because she couldn’t see clearly, she’s afraid the arsonist is someone she knows — very well.

Jack takes it upon himself to protect Cassie from the arsonist. He admires the way she’s coped after being burned in a nursing home fire 18 months ago and spending time with her just reinforces his admiration. Can he convince her that her disabilities and scars don’t have anything to do with the way he feels about her?

Cassie knows Jack is the best at fighting fires. But an arsonist isn’t a fire. Can she trust Jack to protect her from someone who may be posing as a friend by day and setting fires by night? Can she spend time with this funny, considerate and good-looking man and not get her heart broken?

In the middle of Jack’s professional problems, Jennifer faces a crisis and turns to him for support. Not only must Jack deal with the danger of an arsonist, but he must somehow cope with his sister’s escalating problems, which he and the other O’Malleys are helpless to solve.

Cassie watches as the tension mounts for Jack on all sides. She has the comfort of believing in Jesus, but Jack doesn’t. She wants to talk to Jack about salvation, but she keeps putting it off, waiting for the right time.

But time is running out, because the arsonist is setting bigger and more dangerous fires and Jack’s the one in danger.

I think “The Protector” was my favorite because who can resist a man with a sense of humor? But Jack’s not just a funnyman, he’s a caring brother and a conscientious fireman who takes his job seriously. Plus, it was nice to have a female lead who wasn’t physically perfect and watch her struggle to accept her disabilities.

Unlike his siblings, Jack doesn’t have a major issue with God — he just never really thought about Jesus one way or another. But with Cassie and other people in his life pushing him to get off the fence, Jack needs to look at the facts and decide for himself, just like everyone else does.

“The Healer”

Rachel O’Malley is a trauma psychologist, working disasters for the Red Cross, specializing in helping the children. She’s calm and organized, and knows how to handle any crisis. But juggling all these crises will test even Rachel’s abilities.

The most immediate is the flood that has displaced many people and destroyed homes. As bad as the destruction is, Rachel finds comfort in helping the people and getting them what they need, with the help of Fire Captain Cole Parker.

In addition to helping with the immediate flood crisis, Rachel has been checking up on newspaper reporter Gage Collier, who is still grieving his late wife, Tabitha, who was Rachel’s best friend.

In the midst of everything else, Jennifer’s problems have reached the point of no return and the O’Malleys are powerless to change things. It’s especially difficult on Rachel because she and Jennifer are very close.

Then Lisa finds a body in one of the flooding homes — a body that didn’t die as a result of drowning. The facts point to murder, but how will they prove it with the flood waters washing away all the evidence? And why is one of Rachel’s business cards with its special number in the victim’s personal effects?

If Rachel can’t put the pieces together, there’s going to be another death because the murderer is still out there — and the murder weapon just turned up at a school.

Rachel is the one her family depends on to organize anything and she’s the one they depend on to be the calm center in the storm. Rachel has learned to be very self-sufficient, but when the worst happens, will Rachel depend on herself or learn to lean on God?

Henderson is blending several storylines in preparation of the conclusion of this series, so “The Healer” doesn’t have the same structure as the previous O’Malley books, but this is necessary because of what she covers in this book and she makes it work.

It all changes for the O’Malleys in “The Healer” and nothing will be the same for this family again.

“The Rescuer”

Stephen O’Malley is no stranger to death. He sees it all the time in his job as a paramedic. But when death hits close to home, Stephen can’t cope. He wants to run away from everyone, including all his siblings.

This death has made it impossible to do his job anymore; he can’t physically cope with the trauma of broken, bleeding bodies. Also emotionally distraught over Jennifer’s situation, Stephen does what he’s always done, even back at the orphanage — he runs away.

But Stephen can’t ignore a request from an old friend, Meghan Delhart. They’ve known each other since they were kids, but it’s more than that. Stephen feels responsible because he wasn’t there the day Meghan really needed him, and it cost her dearly.

Meghan doesn’t understand why Stephen feels responsible for the blindness that resulted from the car accident she had years ago. The fact is, if Stephen hadn’t found her when he did, she would probably be dead, not just blind. As difficult as being blind sometimes is, she knows her situation is in God’s hands, just like Jennifer’s.

But Stephen doesn’t feel that way. Raised in a Christian home before he wound up in the orphanage, Stephen knows God, he just doesn’t trust Him to take care of things, due to what happened in his past. Protecting the people around him, including Meghan, has always been his top priority since then.

But things are spiraling out of Stephen’s control. The secret life of some of Meghan’s old friends surfaces and with it a danger to her life. If Stephen can’t trust that God has always had Jennifer’s best interests at heart, how will he be able to trust Him when Meghan turns up missing during a storm?

Stephen knows about God, so it’s not a question of getting a religious education. He needs to reach out with his heart and find God and sometimes that’s the most difficult thing for a human to do, meet God face-to-face and trust Him.

***

Henderson does a good job of drawing this family unit. She’s collected an eclectic bunch of characters and brought this family together in a very unique way. These seven aren’t a bunch of Pollyannas — even Jack the jokster has a serious side — and they are all multi-faceted with many layers. They are real people with scars from their orphan pasts.

Those scars are what most of them have to work through to bring them closer to God.

Henderson does suspense very well, building up the case and her story bit by bit. It’s not easy to work with the same characters over a 7-novel series, but Henderson polishes off the series on the same note she started, taking the reader for a heck of a ride along the way.

If you are looking for a series you can get lost in for a while, check out the O’Malleys.

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