DEROS, by John A. Vanek
DEROS (304 pages) is the first book in a mystery/suspense series by John A. Vanek set in Oberlin, Ohio, and featuring amateur detective Father Jake Austin. A series of murders force Father Jake Austin to confront his own violent past, regrets over lost love, and his doubts about the priesthood.
“This intense debut introduces a complex narrator, an introspective Vietnam vet who still struggles three decades later with his anger and losses stemming from the war. Vanek’s bittersweet novel will appeal to admirers of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s clerical mysteries.” —Lesa Holstine for Library Journal
“Fr. Jake Austin, the hero of Vanek’s promising debut and series launch, returns to his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio, in 2002 to take up a temporary post at a Catholic hospital in nearby Lorain—an assignment that coincides with his high school class’s 30th reunion. [….] Full of conflicting emotions, Jake has a lot to cope with in a mystery that’s as much a character study as a whodunit. The title is an acronym for Date of Expected Return from Overseas—the relevance of which isn’t immediately obvious. Readers will look forward to seeing more of Jake.” Read more….
“John Vanek brings small-town Oberlin, Ohio, to life. Locals will recognize familiar people, places, and threads of Oberlin history woven throughout the story as Father Jake Austin reconnects with his past and gets caught in a web of deadly vendettas.”
—Liz Schultz, Executive Director of the Oberlin Heritage Center
When Father Jake Austin is assigned to his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio, in July of 2002, he has been away for a long time. A physician and a war veteran before entering a Catholic seminary, he is now a member of the Camillian Order. He takes comfort in his vows of obedience, poverty, chastity, and service to the sick.
Jake arrives just in time to attend his high school reunion, where an encounter with his high school sweetheart forces him to question his commitment to the priesthood. Before the night is over, one of his classmates will be dead, a second gravely wounded, and a third hospitalized. The carnage at the reunion comes on the heels of what appears to be an unrelated murder at the quarry. Overseeing the investigation is Jake’s former football teammate, Chief of Police Tremont “Tree” Macon, who is unwilling to rule out anyone as a suspect, not even Jake. As he struggles to prove his innocence and to find his footing in a town that remembers him as a hellion, Jake searches for threads that will connect these brutal attacks.
The war may be long past, but in some ways Jake is still waiting for his DEROS: Date of Expected Return from Overseas. Can he put aside his own demons long enough to find the living, breathing devil who stalks his classmates?
Says Dr. Vanek, “I practiced medicine at the real St. Joseph Hospital in Lorain, Ohio until it closed its doors in 1997. Father Jake Austin is a fictional character, but aspects of his personality and struggles are modeled after two Catholic priests who were my close friends and confidants. When I first met them, I expected the usual stereotypes, but when their Roman collars came off and we kicked back with a few beers, I found that they were simply human. Seeing these men wrestle with the same emotions that we all share shattered my stereotypes and preconceived notions about the priesthood. I wanted to portray Father Jake as a spiritual man, but with all of the flaws of any human being.”
John Vanek received his bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, his medical degree from the University of Rochester, did his internship at University Hospitals of Cleveland, and completed his residency at the Cleveland Clinic. His poetry has won contests and has been published in a variety of literary journals, anthologies, and magazines. John lives in Florida, where he teaches a poetry workshop for seniors.
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