A lack of dramatic plausibility undermines this religiously charged adventure.

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PRESERVING THE FAITH

A former SWAT team member–turned–amateur archaeologist tries to prove the existence of the biblical King David in this thriller.

After Conner McKenzie’s chronic anxiety ended his career as a federal agent, he went back to school to study biblical archaeology, motivated by a desire to uncover empirical evidence to substantiate key stories in Scripture. Soon after he starts his own business—the Biblical Investigations and Historical Antiquities Company—Conner lands a major contract: Dr. Scott Strickland, an Old Testament scholar, hires him to travel to the Middle East and track down evidence that may prove the existence of King David. Strickland recently discovered an inscription in northern Jerusalem that dates back to the 10th century B.C.E. and describes David’s sword, which may have been hidden by the Queen of Sheba deep in the catacombs of Yemen. Conner recruits his best friend, Chris, also a former SWAT operative, to join him, and the two head for Dubai, Yemen, and beyond. They encounter determined resistance from an organization called the Muslim Advancement Group, which aims to eradicate Christianity from the globe—a purpose that inspires its members to destroy any artifacts that support the historical accuracy of the Bible. Naftari, one of their senior members, attempts to kidnap or kill Conner and Chris more than once, and his men doggedly track their movements. Meanwhile, Chris wrestles with a crisis of faith, unsure of the place of God in his life. Debut author Gregory has clearly done a thorough job researching the details of the biblical story of David as well as the real-life archaeological quest to historically confirm that biblical account. However, the prose is often melodramatic in tone, and much of what transpires feels didactic and clumsy; at one point, for instance, Conner and Naftari argue the finer points of comparative theology while also simultaneously engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Also, Chris espouses dismissive interpretations of the Muslim religion that some readers may find offensive: “What did Muhammad do for you? Nothing. He does not love you; he does not care for you or want a personal relationship with you.”

A lack of dramatic plausibility undermines this religiously charged adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-7584-6

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2018

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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