Here's a description of the book from the author's website:
"Rumors of dirty cops, midnight meetings on Friday the thirteenth, and a forested militia masquerading as a religious cult--these and other peculiar elements complicate the senseless murder of Deputy Sheriff Baxter Dunn, son-in-law of Christine's best friend, Zora Jane Callahan.
The subject may be frightful, but our amateur sleuth tackles it with her characteristic blend of nosiness and tenacity, especially after Molly her beloved border collie is dog napped in retaliation for Christine's intrusion into matters that are clearly none of her business.
National media attention fuels the escalating conflict between Christine and the authorities. Suspicions grow concerning which of the lawmen--if any--can be trusted. When a second murder jolts the tranquil community, Christine gets tagged as the prime suspect. Where is God in this? And who will rescue Molly if Christine ends up behind bars?"
The Dunn Deal is like Murder, She Wrote with a Christian emphasis and a dear husband tagging along for the ride. Christine Sterling is in her "golden years," so what can she contribute to a possible murder investigation that has far more dangerous implications the deeper she gets involved? Well, apparently plenty! Although it is difficult to say how much more work she makes for the local law enforcement...
The story is told from Christine's point-of-view (first person), so it's easy to either be highly amused by her antics or to just plain be annoyed. Because of some of her interactions with others (like her husband), I'm not fully on the latter end of the spectrum, but pretty close.
For a book that highly prizes the Truth, Christine doesn't seem to be above evading it in personal matters in order to protect herself from a lecture or to get away with what she wants. One of the discussion questions at the end suggests that the author made Christine to be a flawed character whose every decision should probably not be emulated...but at the same time, there seems to be mixed messages about truth when Christine constantly makes the same mistakes while the case is ultimately solved.
Christine's husband, Jesse, comes across as wishy-washy on occasion, not quite determined enough to really work through some of these issues. However, the romance between this older couple is quite wonderful. It's fun to see the protective nature and the caring ways of a couple whose honeymoon ended many years ago. Jesse is a unique and adorable hero!
As for Molly, the pet modeled on the cover, I'm torn. She is a sweet addition to the story, but her addition sometimes comes across as forced. Perhaps in Payne and Misery (the first book in this series), Molly's role is more established, so readers who then pick up this book know the connection between pet and owner. I'm just not sure. For me, Molly's part kind of gets shuffled in later on after the groundwork has already been established, and I just didn't get to experience much of a connection. That wouldn't be quite so vital if it wasn't for the fact that Christine makes some very poor decisions (in my opinion) in order to help her dog. In a book with such a strong evangelical slant, the instances where a dog's life appears to be valued more than a person's safety bothered me.
All in all, The Dunn Deal is certainly an interesting read, with plenty of discussions to listen in on and even some action to keep the tension high. For those who enjoy a good mystery starring a more mature couple, you might want to give this a try - perhaps keeping in mind the previously mentioned issues that stood out to me.
*With thanks to Ellechor Publishing House for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*