A thriller with a Christian angle and an ample supply of puzzle pieces to entice readers of any creed.

PRELUDE

AN END TIMES MYSTERY THRILLER

The chief of police and the new youth pastor in a Georgia town encounter demonic forces in the author’s debut novel.

The coastal town of Sea Mist has had so little crime that cops don’t have the Miranda rights memorized. So contending with a missing person and a dead cop found in the woods puts a lot on Chief Ed Geffen’s plate. Auntie Bell, known for her gift of sight, has visions of an impending evil—ostensibly confirmed by the onslaught of strange animals, including giant snakes and apelike creatures. And Ed, along with the community church’s latest hire, Pastor Tom Grant, believes the man responsible may be the Antichrist. Hendley’s book seems aimed at Christian readers. Its intentions clearly aren’t to alienate non-Christian readers, but the religious message of Tom’s sermons and classes sometimes commandeers the plot. And while he preaches beliefs that some might not agree with, e.g., Christianity is the only path to God, the plot continues elsewhere, as Ed questions Tom’s students. Sea Mist, a resort town with luxurious beachside homes, provides an excellent, atmospheric backdrop for evil. The supernatural elements—a tiger with horizontal stripes, a protective white light—add interest. But it’s the real-world dilemmas that hold the most weight, such as Ed’s uncertainty over what to tell the public regarding the ongoing murder cases and Tom’s anxiety on his first day as the youth pastor. The novel’s final act maintains its religious theme and suspense as Tom, Ed and their loved ones become targets for otherworldly beasts. The author also infuses the narrative with a bit of humor, even acknowledging the offbeat plot when the editor of a local newspaper, a notorious “kook,” summarizes the bizarre goings-on for a private investigator.

A thriller with a Christian angle and an ample supply of puzzle pieces to entice readers of any creed.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463727741

Page Count: 368

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2012

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Unanswerable questions wrapped inside a thought-provoking yarn.

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THE STRANGER IN THE LIFEBOAT

An inspirational novel about a disaster and an answered prayer by the author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003).

What if you call out for the Lord and he actually appears before you? Days after billionaire Jason Lambert’s luxury yacht Galaxy suddenly sinks in the North Atlantic with many illustrious passengers aboard, a few survivors float in a life raft. Among them is Benji, a deckhand who narrates the ordeal in a notebook while they desperately hope for rescue. Lambert is a caricature of a greedy capitalist pig who thinks only of himself and his lost ship and mocks Benji as “scribble boy,” but the main character is a young stranger pulled out of the water. “Well, thank the Lord we found you,” a woman tells him. “I am the Lord,” he whispers in reply. Imagine the others’ skepticism: If you’re not lying, then why won’t you save us? Why don’t you answer our prayers? I always answer people’s prayers, he replies, “but sometimes the answer is no.” Meanwhile, the ship’s disappearance is big news as searchers scour the vast ocean in vain. The lost survivors are surrounded by water and dying of thirst, “a grim reminder of how little the natural world cares for our plans.” Out of desperation, one person succumbs to temptation and drinks ocean water—always a bad mistake. Another becomes shark food. The Lord says that for him to help, everyone must accept him first, and Lambert, for one, is having none of it. The storyline and characters aren’t deep, but they’re still entertaining. A disaffected crew member might or might not have sunk the ship with limpet mines. And whether the raft’s occupants survive seems beside the point—does a higher power exist that may pluck believers like Benji safely from the sea? Or is faith a sucker’s bet? Lord knows.

Unanswerable questions wrapped inside a thought-provoking yarn.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288834-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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