Tag Archives: international suspense fiction

Book Review: Torn Asunder

30 Mar

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

3763508.jpgAfter graduating from the Secret Seminary, Hannah and Simon are ready to return to their homeland. Their training has equipped them to carry the gospel to a country ravaged by darkness and despair. If necessary, they’re even prepared to face the North Korean labor camps, but the hardest part of their mission isn’t the hunger, cold, and incessant danger. The hardest part is cutting off contact with one another. In this world of spies, secret police, and informants, Simon and Hannah learn that staying together won’t just compromise their ministry. It could cost them both their lives.

Two undercover missionaries delivering a single message of hope. Two Christians willing to die for the sake of the Good News. One love – more powerful than terror, more beautiful than life, and more dangerous than either of them could possibly imagine.

A love so strong, nothing but the grave could overcome it.

Torn Asunder is part of the Whispers of Refuge series branched off from Alana Terry’s award-winning debut, The Beloved Daughter. These suspense novels tell the stories of contemporary North Koreans and can be read together or separately from Alana’s other books.

 

alana-terryAlana Terry is passionate about human-rights issues in North Korea and has devoted her writing to raise both awareness and funds to help North Korean refugees find freedom and safety. You can learn more about her work with Liberty in North Korea at alanaterry.com.

 

My Impressions:

Torn Asunder is the third book I have read by Alana Terry. Her subject matter, the plight of Christians in North Korea, does not lend itself to gentle reads. Terry never minces words when it comes to the brutality of the North Korean regime — the horror of the prison system is brought to light.  Neither does she stint on the power of God’s word and work within the Christian community in spite of the darkness that covers that country. If you are interested in the persecuted church, then Torn Asunder is a book you will want to read.

Hannah and Simon are recent graduates of a Secret Seminary operated by American missionaries in China. Former refugees, they are dedicated to crossing back into North Korean to accomplish whatever God wills for them. But the forces of evil will stop at nothing to eradicate the Christian church.

Torn Asunder has at its heart the continuing goodness and love of God towards the people of North Korea. Prisoners and guards are all victims to the inhumanity of the Pyongyang government. The novel explores what it really means to be a Christian when faced with persecution, torture, and starvation. Some of the characters succumb to the torture and abuse; others remain faithful. How would I fare in the circumstances the characters find themselves in? I cannot imagine. But in the face of men’s frailty, Terry illustrates a faithful God. One aspect I was especially struck by was the need to know Scripture, to have it hidden in the heart. When faced with extreme conditions, it was the only thing that the characters had left to cling to.

Torn Asunder is a faith-filled story of romance, suspense and survival. It is also a book sure to convict — persecuted brothers and sisters need our prayers.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to the author for a review copy. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click HERE.

Book Review: The Babylon Contingency

16 Feb

641209Investigating a burglary at an English country house, Detective Chief Inspector Robbie Peele comes face to face with one of the most mysterious objects in world archaeology, the Phaestos Disk—and with the Middle Eastern terrorist cell determined to steal it.

The vital clue is a long abandoned Muslim village in Crete, where a Victorian gentleman explorer witnessed horrors that were meant to be secret and recorded what he saw in coded diaries. Seeking the truth about the Phaestos Disk, Peele and his assistant, Sarah Shipton, are on the cusp of solving the mystery when they are caught in an ancient Egyptian burial chamber during an earthquake.

In the end Peele has to ask far harder questions than simply who committed the original burglary. The origins of the Phaestos Disk are inextricably bound up with the Middle East peace process in ways that frustrate and astound him.

 

Clifford Longley is an author, broadcaster and journalist who has specialized since 1972 in the coverage and analysis of British and international affairs. For twenty years he wrote a weekly column in The Times. He now contributes to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 and appeared regularly on The Moral Maze.

My Impressions:

I like to read/review books for Kregel/Lion Hudson because their British novels explore subjects and describe culture much different than those found in American Christian fiction. And while they often include some profanity and adult subject matter (this novel does) also not found in their American counterparts, they usually have a Christian worldview that I can agree with. That’s why I signed up for the blog tour of The Babylon Contingency by Clifford Longley. I must confess I have mixed feelings about this book.

DI Robert (Robbie) Peele thinks he is following up on a routine break-in at a manor house when he is plunged into a case complete with international terrorists, shadowy manipulation by intelligence agencies, a centuries old archaeological find and a plot to bring down the state of Israel. Whew, that’s a lot for a Metropolitan Police detective! Along the way he encounters archaeologists with conflicting motives and allegiances. The back cover blurb assertion that archaeology is dangerous is spot on.

I really would not characterize The Babylon Contingency as Christian fiction. The reader will be hard pressed to find any characters who are Christians, let alone live their faith. There is one archaeologist who is a semi-practicing Catholic and one who is a Jew turned Catholic turned Jew turned . . . .  You get the picture. Most characters are atheists or agnostics or just-don’t-think-about-its. The worldview that Moses didn’t exist and that the Bible is a book of myths is their starting point in informing their world. This is the part I found most intriguing about the book. It provides insight into how those in the scientific/secular world view fundamentalist (that’s how evangelicals are described) Christians and their religion of delusion and deceit. I did not get the impression that the author believed this as well, just that he was describing what a very vocal interest group believes. For that I would recommend reading this novel. The mystery took a while to develop, but once the characters travel to Crete and Egypt, the action takes off. Robbie Peele is a good detective, if a bit world-worn and cynical. Other characters are interesting, yet are motivated by their own selfish desires or ideologies. Not really any that I could relate to or want to know.

An interesting read, but . . .  The Babylon Contingency is not one I would pick up again.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click HERE. It is currently $1.99 for Kindle.

 

Book Review: Slave Again

15 Dec

4524684_origShe traded in her prison uniform for shackles of a different kind.

After escaping a North Korean prison camp, Mee-Kyong is hustled over the border and sold into the Chinese underworld. She vows to survive, but sheer determination and willpower won’t save her this time. Is she fated to remain a slave forever?

8543275About Alana Terry (from her website) — When I’m not blogging and writing, it’s likely that I’m on the floor wrestling with my kids. Or playing outside with my kids. Or chauffeuring my kids. Or leading clubs and day camps for homeschoolers (including my kids). Otherwise I’m probably hanging out at church with a whole bunch of teenagers and my youth-pastor husband.

My Impressions:

Slave Again is the first book in a new series by Alana Terry. (You can read my review of her first novel, Beloved Daughter, HERE.) Terry revisits the people of North Korea, this time focusing on the women who are sold into slavery in China. While prostitution is officially illegal in China, there are many levels to the sex trade in that country. In Slave Again, the women are trapped in the hotel district of a town north of the North Korean border. Though written from a Christian worldview, Terry’s book is not like most books written for that genre. The images are brutal and the emotions raw. Most characters are not Christian and their actions are formed by the brutality of their world. If you are looking for a gentle read, this one is not for you. But if you want an honest look into the ruthless North Korean regime, then Slave Again would be a good choice.

Mee-Kyong (introduced in Beloved Daughter), has escaped from the North Korean prison camp that has been her home since birth. But she soon finds herself forced into another prison — a Chinese brothel not far from the border. Her survival skills keep her alive, but her hardened heart is touch by a young girl stolen from her family. Slave Again details the horrors and hopelessness of the sex trade. However, the hope for escape and a new life in Christ is included in its message.

There are a lot of story lines in Slave Again, many of which are left incomplete. I am hoping that they will develop in the next books in the series. There is a good deal of suspense, and you never really know just what is coming on the next page. I would have liked a bit more character development — I had a hard time understanding the motivations of several of the characters. But if you are looking for characters that are based in reality, then Slave Again is for you. All the characters have warts, including the Christian characters. The contrasting points of view are enlightening — from characters just trying to survive, to those who are struggling with the way of Christ and those who are trying desperately to help the lost and desperate. There is a great deal of adult content — abuse is not sugar coated. So if you don’t want to read about the realities of human trafficking, don’t pick up this book. But for those who want an honest portrayal of the subject, Slave Again is eye-opening.

Alana Terry is passionate about the people of North Korean and that passion is reflected in her writing. After reading Slave Again, you just might join her cause.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults (violence and human trafficking portrayed)

(Thanks to the author for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: The Brothers’ Keepers

1 Dec

TBK_Front_Cover_325A friend’s deception. A family’s dilemma.

While cataloging looted antiquities in Brussels, archaeologist Grace Madison learns that her daughter has disappeared in France, and daughter-in-law has been attacked in Switzerland. But before the Madisons can save themselves, they must rescue an old friend—if he’ll let them. Navigating a deadly, four-thousand-year-old artifact trail that crosses three continents, they jeopardize hearts and lives against a foe as old as time—as time runs out.

Because choosing what’s right is all that’s left.

 

 

NHorton-271After an award-winning detour through journalism and marketing and a graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, NLB Horton returned to writing fiction. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs accompanied (twice!) by heavy artillery rounds from Syria and machine gun fire from Lebanon. Calmly tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman. Driven uneventfully through Rome. And consumed gallons of afternoon tea across five continents. Her first novel, WHEN CAMELS FLY, was released in May, 2014. THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS her second in the Parched series, will be released November 17, 2014. The third in the series will release in the fall of 2015.

 

My Impressions:

The Brothers’ Keepers is the second book in NLB Horton’s Parched series. I wish I had known that before starting the book. I had the feeling that something was missing, and I think that has a lot to do with not having read book 1, When Camels Fly. Because of this I really didn’t enjoy this international suspense novel.

The Madison family is not your everyday family next door. With roots in the CIA, MI6 and international art, archeology and hydrology, this family is expert at a lot of things, especially finding trouble wherever they go. Maggie Madison’s kidnapping has the family coming together, along with several Mossad agents, rare artifacts dealers and theologians to uncover an international conspiracy involving the precious resource of water in the Middle East. The action takes place over an eleven day period and follows the Madison’s from Paris to Switzerland, Rome and Israel. Ancient artifacts and modern issues combine for an international suspense novel involving spies and priests.

As I stated, something seemed to be missing from The Brothers’ Keepers. I was about 100 pages into it when it dawned on me that there were a lot of characters, but not much characterization. Oh sure, I knew what they wore and ate and argued about, but there wasn’t any depth. A lot of that was probably done in Horton’s first novel. It was like being put into a family gathering, but you are definitely an outsider — not privy to family nuances, jokes, and dynamics. And there is a lot of family time in this novel. I would have preferred more action and less talking about taking action.

Horton’s writing style is a bit jolting as well — lots of sentence fragments. She has a way with words though. I just wish she had spent more time on the action of the novel and less on conversation. (I know I already said that!) There are also loose ends left; a third book in the series is set to publish next year.

Although I cannot really recommend The Brothers’ Keepers, it has some glowing reviews on Amazon. Check them out HERE.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

 

Book Review: When The Devil Whistles

7 May

DevilWhistles-JPEG1-194x300Allie Whitman and Connor Norman loved making the devils of the corporate world pay. Now, it’s their turn. And the price could be their lives.

“I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t.” That’s what Allie Whitman tells herself every night as she lies awake. Sometimes she even believes it. But mostly she knows deep down that her inability to make a hard choice has put millions of lives at risk, including her own. Now the only one who can help her is her lawyer, Connor Norman. Unfortunately, Allie’s actions have destroyed Connor’s trust in her—and may destroy much, much more.

 

 

Rick-Acker-300x197Rick Acker writes novels during his commute to and from his “real job” as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. His unit prosecutes corporate fraud lawsuits of the type described in his new book, When the Devil Whistles, which award-winning author Colleen Coble describes as “a legal thriller you won’t want to miss!”

Rick has led confidential investigations into a number of large and sensitive cases that made headlines in and out of California. Before joining DOJ, Rick was a senior litigator at the international law firm of Bingham McCutchen, where he worked extensively on the multi-billion dollar Executive Life case, which led to the indictment of several French executives and high-level diplomatic strains between the U.S. and France.Rick has law degrees from the University of Oslo and the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with honors. In addition to his novels, he is a contributing author on two legal treatises published by the American Bar Association.

When Rick isn’t writing or lawyering, you can usually find him with his wife, Anette, and their four children. They’ll be exploring in the hills east of San Francisco, watching a good movie together, or, of course, reading.

Rick is a transplanted Chicagoan who spent thirty-five years in the Midwest before finally trading the certainty of winter and mosquitoes for the risk of earthquakes. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Anette, their four children, and two cats.

 

My Impressions:

I am slowly making my way through the many books I have downloaded on my Kindle. It is hard to resist a bargain, but I have so many I am not sure I will ever be able to read them all! To whittle the pile down, I am randomly choosing books. I just finished When The Devil Whistles by Rick Acker. A legal suspense/international thriller, the book was just the ticket for a fast-paced escape novel.

Allie Whitman is a professional whistle blower who, through her company Devil to Pay, provides the California Department of Justice with evidence on companies that cheat in their state contracts. Her attorney, Connor Norman, loves helping Allie bring down corrupt businessmen. But Allie gets in over her head when her cover is blown and she is blackmailed into investigating a marine salvage and construction contractor. What starts as a look into some cooked books becomes a deadly game involving foreign governments and terror plots.

As a legal suspense novel, When The Devil Whistles follows a standard formula, but Acker diverts from the expected when he introduces terrorists, nuclear weapons and a twisting plot that has the reader guessing. Yes, the plot is a bit implausible (how does the US government not know there is a Soviet-era nuclear sub on the bottom of the sea floor off the west coast?), but it is not so different from action adventures so popular in theaters. I liked the twisting action and I liked the characters. I took the plot devices at face value and just went with the story. The biggest negative in many of the reviews I read was that the book was blatantly Christian, which annoyed or disgusted some of its detractors. What I found was a book with some Christian characters and others not. The  Christians were never preachy. In fact their faith was exhibited in natural ways — they prayed or spoke of God’s help. I would say the message portrayed was subtle.

When The Devil Whistles was a fun, quick read and I would definitely read another by Acker.

Recommended.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: Strait of Hormuz

4 Nov

211386_w185The threat of an Iranian blockade of the narrow Strait of Hormuz is escalating global tensions. Sanctions against Tehran have begun to bite, and it seeks to retaliate by cutting off vital shipping routes for crude oil. The specter of a preemptive Israeli strike has US officials on edge as they struggle to keep the world from plunging into the abyss.

Stymied in its efforts to uncover the sources of funding that bolster the Iranian nuclear program, the State Department calls on Marc Royce to investigate. With little to go on, he’ll have to rely on an old ally. Kitra Korban has ties to people with the means to get things done, so long as no questions are asked.

But Iran is on the brink of nuclear capability, and time is running out.

Excerpt

Audio Clip

Davis_Isabella_BunnReviewers, readers and friends use those phrases to describe Davis Bunn. An internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in sixteen languages, Davis is equal parts writer, scholar, teacher, and sportsman.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.

Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.

A sought-after speaker in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.

To find out more about Davis Bunn, check out the following links:

My Impressions:

Strait of Hormuz is the third and final installment in the Marc Royce series by Davis Bunn. A great book for suspense lovers, this novel has it all — terrorists, multinational spies, a threat to Israel and the US, and a group of patriots with the desire and hope of freedom for their countries. There is also a very satisfying romantic element to sweeten the plot. A great conclusion for a great series.

Intelligence agent Marc Royce has left Kitra Korban behind. His first loyalty is to the US and there seems to be no room for a relationship with the woman dedicated to her kibbutz in the wilds of Galilee. But a new assignment puts them back together in a race to stop an Iranian physicist from unleashing havoc in the Middle East. Their attraction is undeniable, and their commitment to each other is second only to their commitment to stop the race towards war.

Filled with car chases, gun fights, bombings, underground churches and dedicated, freedom-loving men and women, Strait of Hormuz is a book for anyone who likes international intrigue, pulse-raising action and a story that is oh so real. Bunn continues to combine great storytelling with a faith element that is natural and convicting.  Characters are complex and the plot well-researched. And although it could be read as a standalone novel, Strait of Hormuz is best enjoyed after first reading Lion of Babylon and Rare Earth.

Highly Recommended.

(Thanks to Bethany House for my review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase the books in this series, click on the images below.

 

Be sure to check out the great giveaway on Davis Bunn’s FB page. Just click on the image below.

StraitofHormuzSweepstakesGraphicforLaunchTeam

 

Book Review: Torn Blood

28 Oct

torn-blood-bookcoverThree weeks before officially reporting for duty at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Addison Deverell arrives in Israel determined to find an answer to a question buried for nearly four thousand years.

Bound to an escort by the embassy, he is unable to begin his search as time is running out. Mere days before he must report for duty, Addison is freed from his forced escort, Hafiz IbnMansur, as a female escort, Elizabeth Daniels, takes his place.

Addison issues an ultimatum to Elizabeth that he must go into Palestinian territory for answers he can’t find in Israel. But, as Addison races to uncover a long buried truth that promises to establish a career, he faces peril from those he seeks to understand and finds himself a pawn in an international plot to drive Israel’s Jews into the sea.

Nearly seven thousand miles away in Oregon, Dr. Janelle Henning confronts a past that threatens to destroy the only family she’s ever known. A search for understanding thrusts her into a foreign world long buried to confront a birthright hidden by the passage of time. With no place—or no one—to turn to, Janelle tries to put the pieces of her life back together.

An ill-boding call shreds the little of Janelle’s world that is left, compelling her to leave her home and fly to Israel in search of Addison. But terrorists stand in Janelle’s way of reaching him, the one person that might unlock hidden identities in a relationship that has spanned a lifetime. But will Addison live, or will death, the master of all, once again keep its secret buried?

David-Bain-3David J. Bain is a novelist focused on writing stories about the Jewish experience and founder of Bo Iti Press. His debut book, Torn Blood, releases in the fall of 2013. Before launching his publishing company, he collaborated on two screenplays made into movies and has been involved in the business world for more than 30 years where his company publishes technical manuals and he wrote the company’s occasional newsletter. David, and his wife, Doris, reside in Oregon.

My Impressions:

Torn Blood is an ambitious project. It seeks to combine an international suspense novel with the historical and political events of the Middle East, in particular Israel. And while I did not really connect with this book, I think it would really appeal to those who have a deep interest in Israel’s history and place in God’s plan and on the world stage. Dense with detail, Torn Blood is certainly not a quick read. The reader needs to make a commitment to this novel. There is a lot to digest — multiple players, political connections, technological aspects and a plot that takes time to unfold. If you enjoy international intrigue and thoroughly detailed and researched novels, then I encourage you to check out Torn Blood.

(I received a complimentary copy of Torn Blood. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: I, Saul

23 Oct

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Worthy Publishing (August 27, 2013)
***Special thanks to Leeanna Case for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jerry B. Jenkins is a New York Times best-selling novelist (Left Behind Series) and biographer (Billy Graham, Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, Nolan Ryan, Joe Gibbs and many more), with over 70 million books sold. His writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and he has been featured on the cover of Newsweek.
Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A MURDERER who would change the WORLD

From multi-million copy best-selling novelist Jerry Jenkins comes a compelling international thriller that conveys you from present-day Texas to a dank Roman dungeon in A.D. 67, then down the dusty roads of ancient Israel, Asia, and back to Rome.

A young seminary professor, Augustine Knox, is drawn into a deadly race to save priceless parchments from antiquities thieves and discovers a two- thousand-year old connection with another who faced death for the sake of the truth. I, Saul consists of two riveting adventures in one, transporting you between the stories of Augustine Knox and Saul of Tarsus.

Filled with political intrigue, romance, and rich historical detail, I, Saul is a thrilling tale of loyal friendships tested by life-or-death quests, set two millennia apart, told by a master storyteller.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.99

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Worthy Publishing (August 27, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1617950068

ISBN-13: 978-1617950063

My Impressions:

Just minutes ago, I turned the last page of Jerry Jenkin’s newest novel, I, Saul. The first word that comes to mind is WOW! This novel has it all — fascinating subject matter, page-turning suspense, complex and intriguing characters and a written style that is masterful. I, Saul, is easily one of the best books I have read all year. Two stories in one, I have a hard time saying which was best. Both plot lines, Paul’s last days in Rome prior to his execution and the modern day adventure surrounding the discovery of Paul’s memoirs, kept me riveted. A great novel for those who like suspenseful reading and/or Biblical history. I, Saul earns a rarely given Very Highly Recommended.

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Tor nT E x ASW EDNESDAy, M Ay 7“call now. desper8.”

The text appeared on Dr. Augie Knox’s phone at 8:55 a.m., seconds before he was to turn it off—protocol for profs entering a classroom at Arlington Theological Seminary.

Augie could have fired off a “give me a minute,” but the message was not signed and the sending number matched nothing in his contacts. The prefix 011-39-06 meant Rome. He’d traveled extensively in his thirty-eight years and enjoyed many visits to the Eternal City, but such a text could easily portend one of those I’ve-been-mugged-and-need- money scams. Whatever this was could wait until he got the Systematic Theology final exam started and could step into the hall with his phone.

Augie had long been fascinated by his students’ nervous chatter before
final exams. One announced, “I looked you up in Who’s Who, Doc, and I

know your full name.”

“Congratulations for discovering something you could have found in your student handbook four years ago.”

“No! That just says Dr. Augustine A. Knox! I found out what the A

stands for.”

“Good for you. Now, a few instructions . . .”

“Aquinas! Augustine Aquinas Knox! Man, what other career choice did you have?”

“Thank you for revealing the thorn in my flesh. If you must know, that moniker was my father’s idea.” Augie mimicked his dad’s monotone basso. “‘Names are important.They can determine a life’s course.’”

Many students chuckled, having sat under the elder Dr. Knox before he fell ill the year before.

“It also says you were adopted. Sorry, but it’s published.” “No secret,” Augie said.

Another hand shot up.“Was that a hint about the exam? Will we be speculating on Paul’s thorn in the flesh?”

“He’s only mentioned that mystery every class,” another said.

Augie held up a hand. “I trust you’re all prepared for any eventual-

ity.”
“So, what’s your dad’s name?”

“Ed!” someone called out. “Everybody knows that.” “Look it up,” Augie said. “You may find it revealing.”

With blue books distributed, Augie slipped out and turned on his

phone.The plea from Rome had already dropped to third on his message list. At the top was a voice mail from Dr. Moore, who had been filling in as acting department chair since Augie’s father had been hospitalized with a stroke.
Augie would have checked that one first, but next was a voice mail from Sofia Trikoupis, his heart. It was eight hours later in Athens, after five in the afternoon. “Call me at the end of your day,” her message said. “I’ll wait up.” It would be midnight her time by then, but she apparently needed his undivided attention. That would bug him all day. How he longed for them to be together.

His phone vibrated. Rome again. “urgent. call now, pls!” Augie pressed his lips together, thumbing in, “who’s this?” “trust me. begging.”

“not w/out knowing who u r.”

Augie waited more than a minute for a response, then snorted. As I

figured. But as he headed back into the classroom, his phone buzzed again. “zionist.”

Augie stopped, heat rising in his neck. He quickly tapped in, “90 minutes OK?”

“now! critical.”

Few people had been more important in Augie’s life than Roger Michaels, the diminutive fifty-year-old South African with a James Earl Jones voice and a gray beard that seemed to double the size of his pale, gnomish face. Augie would never lead a tour of an ancient city without Roger as the guide.

“2 mins,” Augie texted.

He rushed to his father’s old office, which still bore the senior Dr. Knox’s nameplate on the door. Augie knocked and pushed it open.“Les, I need a favor.”

Dr. Moore took his time looking up from his work. “Number one, Dr. Knox, I did not invite you in.”

“Sorry, but—”

“Number two, I have asked that you refer to me as Dr. Moore.”
“My bad again, but listen—”

“And number three,” the acting chair said, making a show of study- ing his watch, “we both know that at this very moment you are to be conducting—”

“Dr. Moore, I have an emergency call to make and I need you to stand in for me for a few minutes.”

Moore sighed and rose, reaching for his suit coat.“I know what that’s about.Take all the time you need.”

Augie followed him down the hall. “You do?” “You didn’t get my message?”

“Oh, no, sorry. I saw one was there, but I—”

“But you assumed other messages were more important. I said we needed to chat after your first exam.”

“Well, sure, I’ll be here.”

“Part of what we need to discuss is your father. Is that what your call is about?”

“What about my father?” “We’ll talk at ten.”

“But is he—”

“There have been developments, Dr. Knox. But he is still with us.” As Dr. Moore headed for the classroom, Augie ducked into a stair-

well, away from the windows and the relentless sun forecasters were saying would push the temperature at least twenty degrees above normal by 2:00 p.m., threatening the 107° record for the month.

Augie wasn’t getting enough signal strength to complete his call, so he hurried back out to the corridor. Cell coverage was still weak, so he stepped outside. It had to be near 90° already. Scalp burning, he listened as the number rang and rang.

Augie moved back inside for a minute, braced by the air condition-
ing, then ventured out to try again. He waited two minutes, tried once more, and felt he had to get back to class.

On a third attempt, as he neared the entrance, it was clear someone had picked up a receiver and hung up. Augie dialed twice more as he walked back to take over for Dr. Moore. Just before he reached the class- room, his phone came alive again with a text.

“sorry. later. trash ur phone. serious.”

Augie couldn’t make it compute. Had his phone been traced? Tapped? If he got a new one, how would Roger know how to reach him?

Dr. Moore stood just inside the classroom door and emerged imme- diately when he saw Augie. “Talk to your mother?” he said.

“No, should I?”

Moore sighed and opened his palms. “You interrupt my work and don’t check on your father?”

Augie reached for his cell again, but hesitated. If he used it, would he be exposing his mother’s phone too?

“Call her after we’ve talked, Dr. Knox. Now I really must get back to my own responsibilities.”

It was all Augie could do to sit still till the end of class. Before get- ting back to Dr. Moore, he dropped off the stack of blue books in his own office and used the landline to call his contact at Dallas Theolog- ical Seminary, just up the road. Arlington Sem sat equidistant between DTS to the east and the massive Southwestern Baptist Seminary to the west. Arlington was like the stepchild no one ever talked about, a single building for a couple of hundred students, struggling to stay alive in the shadows of those two renowned institutions.When Augie needed some- thing fast, he was more likely to get it from the competition. Such as a new phone.

Like his father before him, Augie was  the travel department at
Arlington. No auxiliary staff handled logistics as they did at DTS and Southwestern. The head techie at Dallas was Biff Dyer, a string bean of a man a few years older than Augie with an Adam’s apple that could apply for statehood. He could always be counted on to program Augie’s phone, depending on what country he was traveling to.

“Calling from your office phone, I see,” Biff said. “What happened to the cell I got you?”

“It’s been compromised.”

Biff chuckled. “Like you’d know.What makes you think so?” “I need a new one.Trust me.”

“I’ll just switch out the chip.You’re not gonna find a better phone. How soon you need it?”

“Fast as possible.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I’m not deliverin’ it. Can you come by during normal hours?”

There was a knock at Augie’s door and he wrenched around to see

Les Moore’s scowl. “Gotta go, Biff.”

“Sorry, Les. On my way right now. Or do you want to just meet here?” “Here would not be any more appropriate than your insisting on our being on a first-name basis,” Dr. Moore said, scanning the tiny chamber in which the guest chair was folded in a corner and brought out only

when necessary.

“C’mon, Les. You were only a couple years ahead of me. We hung out, didn’t we?”

“Hardly. You spent most of your free time in the gym with the—

what?—six other jocks who happened to enroll here.”

It was true. And everyone knew the library had been where to find

Les Moore.

Augie looked at his watch. Another final at 11. He followed his interim
boss back to his father’s old office. It wasn’t that much bigger than his, but at least the guest chair didn’t block the door.

“Would you start with my dad?” Augie said as he sat.

“I would have thought you’d have already checked in with your mother, but all right. She called this morning, knowing you were in class. Your father has slipped into a coma.”

Augie nodded slowly. “She okay?”

“Your mother? Sure. It’s not like he’s passed. She just thought you might want to visit this afternoon.”

“Appreciate it.”

“Now then, Dr. Knox, I have some paperwork here that I’m going to need you to sign. Frankly, it’s not pleasant, but we’re all expected to be team players and I’m going to assume you’ll accede to the adminis- tration’s wishes.”

“What’s up?”

“You’re scheduled to teach summer-school Homiletics beginning four days after commencement.”

“A week from today, right.”

“And we have contracted with you for this stipend, correct?”

Why Les felt it necessary to pencil the figure on the back of a business card and dramatically slide it across the desk, Augie could not fathom.

“Yep, that’s the fortune that’s going to let me retire by forty.”

“Um-hm. Humorous. It is my sad duty to ask you to agree to under- take the class for two-thirds that amount.”

“You’re serious.” “Always.”

That was for sure.

“Les—Dr. Moore, you know we do these classes pretty much as gifts to the sem. Now they seriously want us to do them for less?”
“This is entirely up to you.” “I can refuse?”

“We’re not going to force you to teach a class when we have to renege on our agreement.”

“Good, because I just don’t think I can do it for that.”

“I’ll report your decision. We’ll be forced to prevail upon a local adjunct instruct—”

“Like that youth pastor at Arlington Bible—” “He’s a graduate, Dr. Knox.”

“I know! I taught him. And he’s a great kid, but he didn’t do all that well in Homiletics, and there’s a reason they let him preach only a couple of times a year over there.”

“He’ll be happy to do it for this figure—probably even for less.” “And the students be hanged.”

Les cocked his head. “Naturally, we would prefer you . . .”

Augie reached for his pen and signaled with his fingers for the doc- ument.

“I’m glad I can count on you, Dr. Knox. Now, while we’re on the subject, I’m afraid there’s more.You were due for a four percent increase beginning with the fall trimester.”

“Let me guess, that’s not going to happen either.” “It’s worse.”

“What, now it’s a four percent decrease?” “I wish.”

“Oh, no.”

“Dr. Knox, we have seen an alarming downturn in admissions, and the administration is predicting a fall enrollment that puts us at less than breakeven, even with massive budget cuts.We’re all being asked to accept twenty percent reductions in pay.”
Augie slumped. “I was hoping to get married this fall, Les. I can barely afford the payments on my little house as it is.”

“This is across the board, Dr. Knox. The president, the deans, the chairs, all of us. Some departments are actually losing personnel. Mainte- nance will be cut in half, and we’ll all be expected to help out.”

Arlington had been staggering along on a shoestring for decades, but this was dire. “Tell me the truth, Dr. Moore. Is this the beginning of the end? Should I entertain the offers I’ve gotten from Dallas over the years?” “Oh, no! The trustees wish us to weather this storm, redouble our efforts to market our distinctives, and then more than make up for the pay cuts as soon as we’re able. Besides, the way your father bad-mouthed Dallas and Southwestern his whole career, you wouldn’t dream of insult-

ing him by going to either, would you?”

“He bad-mouthed everything and everybody, Les.You know that.” “Not a pleasant man. No offense.”

Augie shrugged. “You worked for him. I lived with him.”

“Do you know, I have heard not one word from your father since the day I was asked to temporarily assume his role? No counsel, no guidelines, no encouragement, nothing. I assumed he was angry that you had not been appointed—”

That made Augie laugh.“He still sees me as a high school kid! Forget all my degrees. Anyway, I wouldn’t want his job, or yours. It’s not me.”

“How well I know. I mean, I’m just saying, you’re not the typical prof, let alone department chair.”

“I’m not arguing.”

Augie couldn’t win. Despite having been at the top of his classes in college and seminary, his having been a high school jock and continu- ing to shoot hoops, play touch football, and follow pro sports made him an outsider among real academics.Too many times he had been asked if
he was merely a seminary prof because that was what his father wanted for him.

Dr. Moore slid the new employment agreement across the desk. “Sorry, Les, but this one I’m going to have to think and pray about.” The interim chair seemed to freeze. “Don’t take too long. If they

aren’t sure they can count on you for the fall, they’ll want to consider the many out-of-work professors who would be thrilled, in the current econ- omy, to accept.”

“Yeah, that would help. Stock the faculty with young assistant pas- tors.”

“May I hear from you by the end of the day?”

“Probably not, but you’ll be the first to know what I decide.”

Back in his own office, Augie popped the chip out of his cell phone and put it in a separate pocket. He called his mother from his desk phone to assure her he would see her at the hospital late in the afternoon, then called Biff to tell him he would try to stop by DTS on his way.

“What’s the big emergency?” Biff said.

“Roger Michaels has himself in some kind of trouble.” “Tell me when you get here.”

During his 11:00 a.m. final Augie was summoned to the administra- tive offices for an emergency call. On the way he stopped by to see if Les would stand in for him again, but his office was dark.The final would just have to be unsupervised for a few minutes.

“Do you know who’s calling?” he said to the girl who had fetched him. If it was his mother . . .

“Someone from Greece.”

He finally reached the phone and discovered it was Sofia. “Thought you wanted me to call later, babe.You all right?”

“Roger is frantic to reach you.”
“I know. He—”

“He gave me a new number and needs you to call right now, but not from your cell.” She read it to him.

“Any idea what’s going on, Sof ?” Augie said as he scribbled. “This is not like him.”

“No idea, but, Augie, he sounded petrified.” “That doesn’t sound like him either.”

“You can tell me what it’s about later, but you’d better call him right away.”

Augie rushed to his office and dialed the number in Rome. It rang six times before Roger picked up. “Augie?”

“Yes! What’s—”

“Listen carefully. I’ve got just seconds. I need you in Rome as soon as you can get here.”

“Rog, what’s happening? This is the absolute worst time for me to—” “Give Sofia your new cell number and text me your ETA. I’ll give

you a new number where you can call me from Fiumicino as soon as you get in.”

“I don’t know when I could get there, Rog. I’ve got—” “Augie! You know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t life or death.”

Book Review: The Sacred Cipher

21 Jun

424267_w185History’s greatest secret could be tomorrow’s greatest threat. More historically and biblically accurate than The DaVinci Code and just as adventurous as an Indiana Jones movie, The Sacred Cipher combines action and mystery to draw readers into a world of ancient secrets and international escapades. When an ancient scroll appears in a secret room of the Bowery Mission in New York City, Tom Bohannon is both stunned and intrigued. The enigma of the scroll’s contents will send Bohannon and his team ricocheting around the world, drawing the heat of both Jewish and Muslim militaries, and bringing the Middle East to the brink of nuclear war in this heart-pounding adventure of historical proportions. 

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5b87810ae7a0b1bcce613210.L._V234389690_Terry Brennan has had an extensive career in journalism, winning several awards, including the Freedoms Foundation Award for editorial writing. Terry served eleven years as the vice president of operations for The Bowery Mission in New York City and is currently a management consultant.

My Impressions:

If you like Brown’s The DaVinci Code or are an Indiana Jones fan, you need to try Terry Brennan’s The Sacred Cipher. Full of historical detail and heart-pounding adventure, this novel has a faith message that is neither preachy or watered down. A good suspense novel filled with historical details and present day intrigue, it is also the prequel to The Brotherhood Conspiracy that I will be reviewing in a few weeks.

Tom Bohannon is the director of the Bowery Mission in New York City. During a renovation project, a long hidden office containing a safe full of valuable manuscripts is discovered and pulls Tom, along with other colleagues into an international and historical mystery. As the group works to uncover the meaning of the ancient scroll, a determined band of Muslim extremists set out to retrieve the scroll and stop the research at any cost. When Tom’s group discovers the hidden message and the danger that surrounds them, they head to Jerusalem, resolved to expose the long hidden Third Temple for the world to see. But once in Jerusalem, the group finds themselves the target of others — the Israeli’s and the Muslims determined to protect the Temple Mount. They must use their wits not just to find the ancient treasure, but to survive.

The Sacred Cipher is a plot driven novel, but Brennan has created some great characters. He also has created a meticulously researched mystery that just could happen. I especially liked the inclusion of real life historical figures such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon. What a great surprise to find this revered theologian at the front of a dangerous quest for answers! If you like books, archeology, Biblical prophecy and a fast-paced, suspenseful read, then The Sacred Cipher is for you.

Recommended.

(I purchased The Sacred Cipher for my Kindle. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: Rare Earth

29 Aug

For eight months after returning from Iraq, State Department intelligence agent, Marc Royce, has lived in limbo. But everything changes when he’s sent to East Africa to investigate possible corruption and bribery within the United Nations.

Thrust into the chaos of Kenyan refugee camps, Royce seizes on risky venture for restoring justice to this troubled land.

Chapters 1-3

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An internationally-acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in sixteen languages, Davis Bunn is equal parts writer, scholar, teacher, and sportsman.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.

Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.

A sought-after speaker in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.

My Impressions:

Rare Earth, the second book in Davis Bunn’s series featuring Marc Royce, is a page-turning adventure ride through the troubled nation of Kenya. A volcano has erupted, displacing thousands of people. The Kenyan government, UN forces and private security firms are facing a serious national disaster with thousands flooding the refugee camps and the overflowing slums of Nairobi. But something even more sinister is at work as villages not in the path of the lava flow are being displaced, their land forever torn from them. Marc Royce, an accountant and a deep ops agent is sent to Kenya by the U.S. government to find out just what is going on.

Davis Bunn has again written a non-stop adventure/suspense novel with deep emotion and well-developed characters. Marc Royce is a deeply committed, yet grief stricken man who takes on the needs of others and feels strongly about the injustices of the world. In Rare Earth his leadership and training are likened to David. This book will also appeal to all those who like fast-moving plots. There is a lot of edge of the seat action — gun fights, black ops maneuvers, and races against time.  It is also a novel of deep faith illustrated by people of different cultures coming together in their belief in God’s power and sovereignty. Though different in almost every way (from tribal elders, Israeli scientists and American intel agents), the believers in Rare Earth share the fundamental conviction that God is definitely in control of all things and people. To me, this was the strongest element of the story.

I definitely recommend Rare Earth.  It is not necessary to read the first book in the series, Lion of Babylon (see my review HERE), to enjoy this book, but I recommend you start with it first to experience just what Marc Royce is all about.

Highly Recommended.

(I received Rare Earth from the author in return for an honest review. The views expressed are mine alone.)