Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Exciting Faith-Based Thrillers!

You may be unaware that the public libraries of Jefferson County have a Reader's Advisory Committee so that we librarians can try to stay on top of current reading trends. We meet bi-monthly and discuss books on a set schedule of topics. Annotated lists of the books discussed at our meetings can be found on the JCLC website under "Resources," then "Recommended Reading."

This month's meeting concerns the Christian/Inspirational Fiction genre and I chose an historical and a suspense which both ended up with the description of "faith-based thriller." These two books were among the best thrillers I've read in quite awhile!

Downs, Tim. Plaguemaker. Westbow Press, 2006.

The Black Plague, riding the backs of rats, swept over Europe in the 1300’s and became infamous as one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. Worldwide deaths were estimated at 75 million people….it is believed that 30-60% of the population of Europe perished during that time and the massive death toll changed the course of the development of Western civilization. Outbreaks of the plague have occurred over the years since the 14th century, but never with such deadly results. Fast forward to the present day. FBI agent Nathan Donovan is investigating what seems to be a fairly average murder case until the techs discover the fleas. Now the clues are mounting up and Nathan is in a race against time to stop the destruction of the U.S. and the world as they are threatened with the pestilence once again, only this time it is a genetically engineered, more lethal killing machine.

This was the first faith-based thriller I’ve attempted to read since Tim LaHaye began his Left Behind series nearly thirteen years ago and I must say that I personally found the difference to be refreshing. Downs knows how to write a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat and the Christianity is no where near as aggressively proselytized as it is in the Left Behind books. Donovan’s interactions with his ex-wife and his attempts to get information from the elderly Mr. Li are by turns funny and poignant without approaching cloying. This novel made me consider themes of forgiveness, selfless love and personal sacrifice while at the same time I wondered if I had enough duct tape at home to seal off the windows and doors in case of a pandemic. I think that’s a pretty tall order for one book. :-)

I’ve obviously been reading the wrong Christian/Inspirational fiction if I’ve been missing this!

Groot, Tracy. Madman: A Novel. Moody Publishers, 2006.

Tallis arrived in this little Palestinian town on the shores of Galilee looking for the Decaphiloi, League of Ten Friends, an Academy of Socrates begun by his master Callimachus several years ago. The progress reports from the school stopped arriving several weeks ago and Cal sent Tallis to find out what went wrong. Upon arriving in Hippos, Tallis discovered the school had been disbanded three years before. No one in town would talk to him; no one would profess to know anything about the once thriving Academy. Who sent the progress reports? Who collected the money Cal sent for supplies? Why did the school disband with no word to Callimachus? Of the ten teachers, he found news of only four: a murder, a suicide, a priestess in the cult of Dionysus, and one madman. The hills of Kursi and the tombs found there are home to the madman and the town is becoming increasingly frightened of the whole area. As Tallis investigates the disappearance of the school and the background of the madman, other forces are just as purposefully determined that he will not find out the truth about either one.

I found this novel hard to put down from the very beginning. The historical detail Groot includes about biblical Palestine truly evoked a real sense of time and place without seeming hokey. There were many elements of this story that I found comparable to Robert Harris’ gripping novel, Pompeii, with Madman giving you the same barren landscape, menacing hills and breathless tension. The people in the story know that something bad is going to happen and Groot made me just as nervous about it as they were. The Christianity in this book was subtle and powerful without being overwhelming. There were many scenes in the book which dealt with personal sacrifice, love of all kinds but most especially the topic dealt with in Madman seemed to be “choice”, choosing between good and evil, selfish and selfless, the high road and the low. I don’t know how these authors can walk such a thin line between powerful and paltry, but Tracy Groot has done it. She has taken the biblical story of the Gerasene demoniac and rendered it into a story that makes you think instead of one that preaches at you.

Happy Reading!

No comments: