The blue cloak

Reviewed by:

Cindy Akre, blogger and voracious reader



The blue cloak


Shannon McNear


Barbour Books

Barbour Books Publishers






242 pages


The Blue Cloak was written by Shannon McNear.   Published by Barbour Books Publishers in 2020, it is 242 pages in print length.  The author has included extensive genealogy to support the use of the characters in this story, which is set in the late 1700s.  In fact, the subtitle of the book is, “True Colors, Historical Stories of American Crime.”  The novel is set in Kentucky along the known Wilderness Road, and follows what is sometimes considered to be America’s first serial killers, the Harpe Brothers, well known in local history. The dangers of frontier life were accurately described as they are well documented, and the historical romance aspect was not overdone.

The intense nature of the crimes committed in this novel, however, made this a more difficult read as it involved gruesome murders and other evil crimes.  In that way, it often read as a suspense/thriller and details may alarm some readers.  What was most intriguing to me was the discovery that the murder victim, whose death subsequently plunged other family members into its investigation, involved my family in a direct way.  To see my 5x great-grandfather mentioned was startling to me, but it drew me into the web of the story.  The action takes place in familiar territory for me, where my family originated.  The author stayed fairly close to the genealogy available to her.  From that standpoint, it was a delight, but that is not a term I would normally give to a suspense/thriller.  The female lead was a woman who helped run the way station her brother owned on the Road.  She met the cousin of the murder victim who was investigating the incident.  Their relationship, as stated above, was not overdone but did give it the “historical romance” designation.

This was an intense read, not for the faint of heart. It followed the investigation and all that it involved, to pursue the Harpes all the way through the book. The fact they were designated as “serial killers” dictates that the violence often had no reason.  It was violence for its own sake, which can be disturbing.  Much violence was left to the imagination, but there was enough written.  This was a great read regardless, one difficult to put down.



Rating (1 to 5):


Suggested Audience:

Adult audience

Christian Impact:

For an assessment, I would give it an overall 4 with a suggested adult audience, due to the often graphic violence.  I give it high marks for its Christian impact. Chapter 17 contains some of the most challenging we see, even in Scripture, about imploring an evil man to confess his sin to God. The back and forth dialogue between a murderer and a saint is indescribably powerful. It causes the reader to pause.  The book is full of references to trusting the Lord, but also full of themes of forgiveness and redemption modeled by the strong characters in the book. It’s a page turner for sure.

The Blue Cloak (True Colors)

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