Downfall by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)
In the third and final volume of her Intervention series, author Terri Blackstock pens a murder mystery with a touch of romance.
Addict Emily Covington has been clean two years, but the college student's mother isn't so sure. Barbara believes the family's move to Atlanta to be near her detective boyfriend has sent Emily back to drugs. A mother's worst fears seem realized when Emily's car is bombed and two women turn up dead.
With a plot related to Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, Emily connects the dots only to discover she's playing into an avenger's hands. Although the identity of the killer remains a mystery, Blackstock takes the reader inside his head as he focuses on ruining the Covington's lives. But why? And by the time Emily and her mother's boyfriend figure out the answer, will it be too late?
The murders occur "off page" with minimal gore as the story unfolds in short, quick chapters. The book closes with an uplifting, unpredictable ending. In between, the author treats church involvement and Scripture as a natural part of life.
Although Blackstock makes her plot understandable for those who haven't perused Intervention and Vicious Cycle, mystery-lovers will enjoy the whodunits more by reading them in order.
Kathy Robinson Hillman,
Woman's Missionary Union of Texas
The Christmas Star by Ace Collins (Abingdon Press)
The Christmas Star is a fast-paced novel that takes place over a span of four days leading up to Christmas, 1945. The main character, 16-year-old Jimmy Reed, lives with his mother, a war widow, and dreads every Christmas since his father was killed in action in 1942.
The plot's conflict centers on Jimmy's anger at his father's death and his desire to live up to his father's standards as a well-loved member of the community. For most of the book, his anger wins out, as Jimmy enters into a dangerous alliance with three small-time crooks. Through a series of God-ordained meetings with several secondary characters who live out their everyday lives with a sacred sense of purpose, Jimmy's heart is turned. The ending, although not entirely believable, does wrap up the novel nicely.
The author writes convincing dialogue, sprinkling biblical truth in a natural way, and he certainly knows how to spin a good tale. However, frequent misspellings and errors in punctuation and grammar caused confusing meanings and awkward reading. I hope these distracting mistakes will be corrected in subsequent editions.
Sarah Crouch, adjunct professor
Dallas Baptist University
Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge (Faith Works)
In the style of Wild at Heart, John Eldredge captures the true humanity of Jesus in Beautiful Outlaw. He focuses on Philippians 2:6-8, "Jesus emptied himself of all the glory he had at the right hand of the Father and became a man." God became man—and a real man with all the quirks associated with humanity—is the focus of Eldredge in this work.
Eldredge begins with a quick overview that challenges the conventional view of Jesus, from the polished Nativity scenes in our churches and homes to the white robes in which he often is pictured. We fail to see the stench and dirty straw of the manger or the scarred hands of Jesus and rolled-up sleeves as he waded through water, mending nets and gutting fish with his disciples. Jesus never did anything half-heartedly. He demanded obedience from nature in calming the seas. Eldredge presents a Jesus who was thoroughly human in the way he spoke, dressed, reacted and taught.
Eldredge challenges the reader to live as Jesus did based on Matthew 16:25—to lose your life in him in order to find real life. The author says, "Grab for life, and it falls through your fingers like sand; give your life away to God, and you will be the person his life can fill."
Beautiful Outlaw will bless and challenge readers as they see Jesus engaging in real life. I highly recommend the book for all men and women who want to see the humanity of the Savior.
retired executive director
Texas Baptist Men