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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review of Novel Inspired by Music Greats

Title: Saving The Innocents
Author: Randall Kenneth Drake
Author’s Web site :
Genre/category: Mystery/Suspense/Action
ISBN: 0-9747161-0-3
Only $5.99 only at author's Web site

Reviewed by Dianne Donovan originally for Midwest Book Review

Saving the Innocents is all about courage, strength, and personal effort;
and as it chronicles the life and efforts of one Mary Jane Chevalier (an
'everywoman' who feels powerless but in fact is powerful), it also reflects
modern society's milieu - and thus will resonate with readers looking for
positive stories about courage and determination in the face of impossible

But Saving the Innocents isn't a story without violence: indeed, the first
paragraph has Mary Jane facing death with little more than the snap of her
gum as a response: "She thought it funny . . . what went through her mind
while waiting for the bullet. Time slowed down in that moment. Several
thoughts and feelings flashed - alternating waves. Her body felt relaxed at
first, as though relief had finally come. Freedom. And she welcomed it."

The first striking thing to note about Saving the Innocents is its attention
to detail and description, which capture powerful images with a pen finely
honed by the moment: "The sound was like a bumblebee as it split the
smoke-filled air. She swung her body around with a gathering force, and
brought the cue from behind her like a broadsword - the way a Viking
marauder would in the long ago of Scotland. The wooden blade made a
thunderous crack into the side of the big man's knee, the cue splitting

Mary's passion for finding her father is only equaled by her determination
to save the weak who, much like herself, have limited choices when facing
violence. And so her very nature inevitably becomes linked to two very
special people who enter her life on the run and who create a double mystery
for her to pursue. True to her helpful nature, Mary Jane feels compelled to
assist; and that action in turn will transform her own life as she becomes
absorbed in a deadly manhunt,  determined to save the innocents she's
stumbled upon and, ultimately, herself.

Mary Jane feels like an unknown: while she makes efforts in life, she
largely feels her achievements are too little . or so her conscious says.
Her decision to search out an absent father who changed her life through his
actions is what results in the unexpected: the discovery of a man and a
little girl hiding out because they have seen too much.

Now, some notes on this novel's unusual roots: they were inspired by the
author's infatuation with movies and with the songs of Sarah McLachlan,
Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow. Parts of this story actually came to him
in a series of flashback-like scenes which he dutifully penned as they came;
but it was McLachlan's music that prompted a flood of inspiration prompted
by a realization that each line of one of her songs described one of the
scenes Randall Kenneth Drake was already writing.

And it was Morisette's song 'Mary Jane' and 'You Learn' combined with Crow's
lyrics in 'Am I Getting Through' which both contributed to the character of
Mary Jane Chevalier. Listen to this music for further insights into that
protagonist and her origins - at the risk of gaining advance insights into
where the plot is going. In fact - listening to the music of all three as
background to reading provides a kind of multimedia experience that any
singular song, artist or the book alone couldn't impart.

The scenes originated with a story Drake stumbled upon in a bar, of an
abandoned child left by her mother in front of the 'best house she would
like to live in'. And so psychological and physical abandonment are one
element in a novel that weaves a complicated story line powered by a woman
who is strong, but believes herself to be weak. It's unusual to find a
strong female heroine in a novel but Mary Jane IS that heroine, fighting for
the weak and making a difference not just in her world, but in the worlds of

To add a dose of complexity, the protagonists all hold names indicative of
their underlying roles in the story line: thus Delphia acts as an oracle and
seer, Chevalier is actually a knight in disguise, and Mary Jane (much to the
reader's surprise) embodies ALL these qualities, exhibited during the course
of her quest.

It's all about a quest involving 'finding an angel', fantasies designed to
cope with soul-threatening encounters, issues of death and values in life,
and an epic quest disguised as a search for meaning. In this case not only
does Mary Jane find her cause and meaning from life, but events come full
circle in posing an angelic presence for Sera, the little girl who needs

Saving the Innocents is also about preparing for battle, caring for self and
strangers alike, and what motivates the deepest of emotions: "All her life
she had wanted to be noticed - to love and be loved - to be someone's
champion. The answers had come from the most unexpected sources. Nick,
Delphia, Jack, and Sera. An ex-fireman, a crippled, blind woman . . . an
odd, devoted, loyal man - and a little girl."

As protagonists join the story and begin their dance of interaction and
influence, readers are treated to much more than a mystery or crime story:
it's a story of courage, survival against all odds, and revelations that
change everyone involved. The heart and soul of Saving the Innocents lies in
Mary Jane's choices and determination which create a true heroine's journey
in which Mary Jane's emotions and observations act as a driving force behind
an epic quest for salvation that spills from the personal to (ultimately) an
entire circle of characters.

Any looking for a novel that wraps its reader in a cloak of complexity and
warmth will find Saving the Innocents filled with satisfying twists, turns,
and protagonist interactions that create scenarios of understanding,
connection and, ultimately, redemption.
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