A historical novel exploring an untold story from the Bible.
Turner’s (Know Better, Do Better, 2014) latest concerns a passage in the Old Testament book of Numbers in which God instructs Moses to take one representative from each of the 12 tribes of Israel and send them on a spying mission into the land of Canaan. There, they are to assess its wealth, the nature of its peoples, and the strength of its defenses, all in preparation for God’s giving the land over to his chosen people. Scripture relates that these spies spent 40 days on their mission, then returned to their people, but it says little about who they were or what they may have encountered in Canaan. Turner fleshes out the story, introducing those 12 spies as individuals, giving them personalities (including the book’s two main characters, Joshua and Caleb), and sending them along caravan routes to Canaan, which was then mostly controlled by the Egyptian Empire. There, they encounter military commanders, traders, prostitutes, and counterspies. The tale unfurls via a narrative framing device centered on a modern-day CIA agent debriefing an elderly Middle Eastern source, who tells the agent this story. Turner adds pleasing complexity to the many characters and also inserts a supernatural element in the form of demons and angels who watch over the various human characters, occasionally intervening directly. At one point, for instance, Michael the archangel destroys a demon who’d been threatening the spies. Throughout the adventures of the core characters, Turner interweaves a more personal theme of a faith clearly intended for his Christian target audience. “How could a people who actually saw evidence of a living God willfully turn their backs on Him,” one character wonders. Fatia, an Egyptian widow and one of Turner’s best-drawn characters, “loved God and followed His laws even without ever seeing any evidence of God.” These pietistic sentiments sometimes clash with the book’s more straightforward historical adventures, but Turner mostly reconciles the two to good effect.
An enjoyable faith-based narrative of spies having their faith tested in a foreign land.