Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage

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Scoop by Rene Gutteridge

Reviewed by Sheryl Root

"Rene does a wonderful job making each of the newsroom characters unique and believable, and keeps the suspense up to the very end."

The obituaries of Percy and Lucy Hazard that serve as the prologue to Scoop quickly had me chuckling. But when I discovered that the cause of their deaths involved a heart shaped hot tub, an overly ambitious serenading guitar player, a hundred foot extension cord, and a rack of mood lighting, I found myself laughing out loud. Rene Gutteridge combines the trademark humor evident in the Boo series with a bit of mystery in Scoop, her first book in the new Occupational Hazards series.

The only job twenty-year-old Hayden Hazard has ever done, or ever planned to do, is handling the administrative work for her family’s business, The Hazard Clowns. So Hayden is shocked when, shortly after her parent’s funeral, her big brother Mitch announces that he has sold the business. He is convinced this will honor their parent’s memory, giving each of the seven Hazard siblings enough money to start new lives and pursue bigger dreams.

Five years later, after graduating from college, Hayden begins work as administrative assistant to Hugo Talley, Executive Producer of the Channel 7 news. Hugo doesn’t know quite what to make of Hayden. She’s good at her job, even though she does irritate him by her openness in praying and sharing her faith. However, Hugo has bigger worries on his mind than Hayden’s praying. Sweeps week is coming up, and his boss wants him to convince their aging icon of an anchor, Gilda Braun, that she needs to have Botox injections. Then there is the tenuous relationship Hugo has with his wife. Now that she is working they hardly see each other, and Hugo misses the days she was at home waiting for him after he got off work.

Reporter Ray Duffy is struggling with his conscience. He wonders if the stories he covers are really making a difference, or merely manufactured to raise the station's ratings. Ray is attracted to Hayden, while at the same time intimidated by her outgoing faith. Ray is a Christian too, but he can’t remember the last time he talked openly about God, especially at work. When Ray is sent out on a seemingly harmless story, he finds himself becoming the news rather than reporting it. Soon, however, he realizes that there may be links between his incident and a far bigger news story and finds help from Hayden and her sister Mack in tracking down clues. Ray’s friend Roarke, a three hundred eighty pound giant that I somehow picture as Hurley from the TV series Lost, is one of my favorite characters. His infatuation with a co-worker, which ends up being much more public than he desired, adds a delightful sub-plot to the story.

I was initially disappointed that very little of Scoop is told from Hayden’s point of view. However, I soon realized that there might be more to the meaning of the series title than I first thought. Scoop reveals what a spiritual “hazard” it can be to a workplace when someone like Hayden comes along. And what better way to show how Hayden and her bold faith affect the Channel 7 newsroom than to do so through the eyes of Hugo and Ray? While I still wish I could have gotten to know Hayden on a deeper level, I understand why Rene chose to tell the story instead through the eyes of her co-workers. Rene does a wonderful job making each of the newsroom characters unique and believable, and keeps the suspense up until the very end.

Snitch, which will feature Hayden’s sister Mack—a police officer—in the occupational spotlight, is scheduled to be released in May 2007. I’m looking forward to reading her crime fighting capers with great anticipation.

Sheryl RootSheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.