An enjoyable faith-based narrative of spies having their faith tested in a foreign land.


Spies of Promise


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.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2015


Page Count: 490

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2015

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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