When we decided to go ahead and plan our month-long event, August Murders, I told the Beard that I didn’t want us to focus solely on movies and TV shows and he concurred. We spoke to the head of our production department, and asked that the trailer include both classic literary figures such as Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle plus more modern literary figures like Willow Rose and Michael Lister.
(If you haven’t seen our trailer, you should check it out. Production did a bang-up job that makes me even more proud to be doing this blog.)
Michael Lister is important to me not just because he’s a great guy, but as an independent author, he controls his own publishing. Independent authors depend more on their readers, and hence try to establish relationships via email. My correspondence with him began in 2015. He was offering his first novel, Power in the Blood, for free.
I had started corresponding with several independent writers as a consequence of posting reviews on Amazon, and he was offering his novel for free to anyone willing to commit to writing an Amazon review. I gladly joined the group of reviewers, and have not regretted a single moment of time spent reading his books. I haven’t found every book to be perfect, but I assiduously assert that everything I’ve read has been carefully crafted genre entertainment.
Michael Lister has written 24 John Jordan mysteries as of this posting. Clearly, the character is popular. You don’t write 24 books about a character that no one likes. Lister spent a little less than ten years as a Florida prison chaplain, so when he writes John Jordan (a Florida prison chaplain who’s an amateur sleuth), there’s an air of authenticity to the writing.
Currently the first six novels of the John Jordan series is being offered on Amazon Kindle for .99 cents. I think it’s a bargain, not just because it’s inexpensive, but because it’s great writing with great mysteries, a very moral sleuth as the main character, where the lines are not just drawn in black and white. The stories are profound, richly rendered with very violent strokes at times, but also with the moments of grace and peace that a man of the cloth must find even in the midst of horrific circumstance.
The prose is at times lyrical while other times harsh. This is probably one of the best things I’ve EVER read. It’s more than 1800 pages all told, which is a great value for again less than $1.00. During the Corona virus lock down Lister offered a buy one get one free for all of his books and also offered some of his books for free if you emailed him and simply asked for the book.
Power in the Blood is Book 1 of the John Jordan Mystery series. In this debut novel,the new chaplain witnesses the bloody death of an inmate on his first day at work. Very quickly, he learns that a correctional facility is a very enclosed culture, and that everything that people say and do is witnessed by others.
Therefore, it is also a very dangerous place that wearing a clerical collar can’t protect you from. As John Jordan struggles with his own issues of faith, he tries to help others with theirs, and is drawn into a murder investigation that he didn’t expect to find.
Book 2 of the John Jordan Mystery Series is Blood of the Lamb. An ex-con turned televangelist comes to the penitentiary where John Jordan works to demonstrate to his followers what a life of redemption looks like, but when a child is murdered in John Jordan’s own office, he is told to play the various roles of cop and cleric.
He must somehow fight the shadow of impending alcoholism while simultaneously trying to be the voice of faith in a situation that threatens his faith. He is the good in a very bad place where the unthinkable has happened, and he must walk the fine line of a justice tempered by mercy.
Flesh and Blood is the title of the third installment of the John Jordan Mystery Series. This is a compilation of short stories that put John Jordan in various situations where he is not just considering the transactions occurring at the prison, but pondering other mysteries that befuddle people even in the moments of our greatest leisure and sloth.
Here John considers the shroud of Turin, a pregnant virgin, a bloody body on the rec yard, a Katrina orphan that has a resemblance to someone from the Bible, and there’s even a story where John Jordan is the prime suspect. This book is not officially numbered in the John Jordan continuity, but in my eBook compilation it is third so I number it as such, but the fourth book is actually number 3. Still, the short story collection is a unique book to own.
The Body and the Blood is actually John Jordan Mystery Series Book 3. It involves the Protective Management Unit (PMU), a full wing of the penitentiary housing the criminals that would not fare well in the prison’s general population units. John Jordan receives a note that a murder will occur in the PMU during a Catholic mass. He attends the mass and observes all of the goings on, but is still surprised when despite his observations a murder occurs practically before his very eyes.
Red herrings abound, including the priest conducting the mass, the victim’s sister, the victim’s lover, or two Protective Management officers. As John tries to balance his investigation with an attempted reconciliation with his ex-wife, two of the people in his life are disappeared and he realizes that the stakes in this investigation may be higher than he’s willing to pay.
After the previous murder investigation, John Jordan must take a break from the excessively stressful environment of working in a detention facility and finds himself at a retreat center. As he is given counseling for his self-destructive behaviors, the dead body of a young man staying at the center washes up on the beach. John Jordan tries to resist the urge to investigate, but when he witnesses the spiritual exorcism of a young woman and her subsequent death, he realizes that he has an obligation to investigate.
Steeped in myth and religion, Michael Lister uses his unique detective John Jordan to explore both the darker sides of our nature and the lighter sides of our spirituality. Though this is not JUST a Murder Mystery series, it certainly fits in well with the classics of the genre.
The last book in the 6 book John Jordan collection is Rivers to Blood. In this novel, John Jordan returns to the detention facility to find that he has a new boss that would rather John resign so that he could bring the chaplain from his old prison with him. A violent murderer is killing inmates in the most disturbing and sadistic ways in the penitentiary and when John begins to investigate, the warden squashes it, saying that it goes beyond his scope of practice. A prisoner escapes while John’s sheriff father is running for re-election and John’s absentee mother lies on her deathbed.
I think you should get an idea from all of the summaries I’ve given of the novels why I believe most murder mystery readers would enjoy these books. Again, 99 cents on Amazon Kindle for a limited time. This will earn our highest rating.
4 thoughts on “August Murders: Reading Sanctum #8 — Michael Lister’s John Jordan Mysteries”
Thanks Mustache for sharing your review for this prolific writer. I’m super intrigued by the concept of a former cop turned prison chaplain investigating murders. I’m a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited and found many of these titles there. I already started reading Book One: Power in the Blood. I’ll let you know what I think after I’m done.
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You’re welcome, Lady Geek. Let me know what you think. There’s a spiritual component that for me layers the story in the human struggle with faith.
Mustached finished Power in the Blood and well into the second book, Blood if the Lamb, and I’m loving this series. The main character, John Jordan, is a kind and compassionate man who is driven to help others even when his own life is falling apart. l do like how the author authentically weaves elements of John’s personal struggles and his faith within the narrative. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Blood of the Lamb is a book that will punch you in the gut. Glad you like the series. This one will test your resilience because it’s an emotional roller coaster, but in my opinion well worth the trip.