Vanished by Irene Hannon

vanished.jpgI came across this book while browsing in my “local” Christian bookshop in Canberra.

The author has written many books, most of them seem to be romance novels, but several lean more to mystery and crime, or as the author describes them “romantic suspense”.

The latter titles belong to a few different series of stories such as “Heroes of Quantico”, “Guardians of Justice”, “Men of Valor”, Code of Honor” and “Private Justice”.

Vanished is the first of the “Private Justice” series.

I’ll confess that the other series titles don’t really appeal to me.

“Private Justice” seemed to have a more down to earth sound to it than the almost super hero sounding labels of the others.

Vanished launches straight into the action, with reporter Moira Harrison suffering a car accident during a late night storm. She crashes after trying to avoid a woman who appeared on the road in front of her.
A man seems to come to her aid, promising to call emergency services and to attend to the possibly injured woman somewhere out on the road. The reporter passes out, and when she regains consciousness it is clear that the apparent good Samaritan didn’t fulfil his promise.

No one believes her story about the woman she is sure she ran into, or the man who failed to help.

How does she find the truth and bring it to light?
She enlists the help of private investigator Cal Burke, a former homicide detective. Not surprisingly, considering the “romantic suspense” genre, a growing attraction between the two develops.

While the writing style and the authorial voice didn’t personally appeal, the story itself was compelling enough to help me enjoy the book.

Not surprisingly, considering this is a book by a Christian writer, sold in a Christian bookshop, belief in God plays a significant part in the lives of the major characters. Each of them has their own faith struggles and the ways they resolve those struggles is not always beneficial to them or those around them. It becomes clear that religious belief, and even devotion, can be a destructive force if its foundations are faulty, but can be a vital help when based on something legitimate.

One interesting dilemma I found within the story was the extent to which characters could justify their actions by appealing to a sense of greater good, or the pursuit of justice. The bending of truth is portrayed as an acceptable necessity in the case of the “good guys”, because their actions are in the name of pursuing justice. But in reality I have a problem accepting their end justifies the means outlook is any more acceptable than the same kind of mindset applied to the “villain” of the story.

 

More about the author and her books here:

Irene Hannon Official site

In “Defense” of Crime Fiction

A one time friend of mine has taken exception to my reading of crime fiction. He is a professing Christian with some extreme theological views that would be rejected by the majority of Christian believers, including myself.

But added to his “theological” issues he has been particularly insistent about the evils of crime fiction and critical of my reading of “death and murder”.
He also objected to me maintaining a “reading list”, claiming I am:

” de facto recommending appalling books to Christians and shd be stopped. [my] Books Read list is available to the public. It shdn’t be…”

Clearly he has read ever single book on my Books Read list and knows without doubt how appalling all of those books are. But as for the claim that I’m recommending any of those books to Christians… it’s very rarely that I recommend any book to anyone, Christian or otherwise.

Ironically, this man introduced me to a Christian author of crime novels, an author his wife had been reading.
I read one of that author’s books and found aspects of it more disturbing than the majority of those “death and murder” books that he condemns; with its Christian good-guys resorting to shooting their criminal opponents on several occasions (it’s American of course).

But overlooking the 100s of non-crime books on my reading list, as well as the many non-fiction titles about a variety of topics, what about the “death and murder” books he finds disturbing?

While crime books mostly have a murder (or murders) as the ignition point of their story, few of them dwell on death. The stories are about the living, those attempting to resolve the crime, or those left to make sense of the life changing loss of a loved one. They are occasionally about the perpetrator, who in most books I’ve read haven’t been evil blood-thirsty psychopaths (although there have been a couple of exceptions out of the many I’ve read). The guilty parties are often everyday people who have committed an out of character act of violence upon the victim.

Most of the authors I’ve read don’t write explicit descriptions of violence or killing, with murders mostly happening beyond the page. There have been exceptions, sometimes gratuitous exceptions, but those are the minority, and aren’t the kind of books I choose to read – although with an unfamiliar author a book has to be read before its nature is discovered.

The majority of the crime fiction I’ve chosen to read, the way I’ve narrowed the field in a very wide genre, has been because of two main factors: geographical and temporal settings. I suppose both have a relationship to nostalgia. The majority of my chosen authors set their books around Derbyshire or neighbouring counties – where I lived during my pre-teen years. Others relate to the mid-1960s – 1970s, the period of my childhood and adolescence. They often weave landscape and time-scape with vaguely familiar references to news events of their time, or to places, and types of people, I thought I’d forgotten about – stirring memories.

Despite the claims of that one time friend, the average crime novel has nowhere near the amount of death and murder as there was in so many of the accounts of WWI and WWII that I was reading a year or two ago; books he was all too happy for me to read, even encouraging me with links to associated articles.

Cold Shot, Dani Pettrey

cold shotA Christian friend brought this author to my attention.
After frequently expressing concern about me reading “crime fiction”, he told me about Dani Pettrey’s books: crime fiction by a Christian author.

Cold Shot was my personal introduction to her work, and I don’t think I’ll be following up with any more of it.

She seems to have a strong following (no author would have published more than ten books without a devoted readership) but based on this book I won’t be joining that readership.

On the positive side, the story kept me reading, wanting to find out how it would be resolved. It was also refreshing to have prayer included as an ongoing feature.

Not so positive, was finding the characters and their dialogue unconvincing. To me they didn’t ring true. One case in point concerns the murder of a co-worker of a major character – something that seems to have no emotional impact at all on that major character who discovered the body.

To this non-American reader, there was also the issue of guns. While it was understandable that a murder by shooting was at the centre of the book, there was a disturbing reliance upon guns by (Christian) law-enforcement personnel, with a number of shooting deaths at the hands of those “good guys” before the case is finally resolved.

And also on the issue of guns and gunmen – it is established quite early that the killer being pursued is a sniper. One hurdle to finding him is the fact that snipers are apparently numerous within that community and they need to determine which one of them is guilty of the crime.

I suppose for an American crime story the prominence of guns should be expected – one only needs to have seen a few American police dramas to be aware of that.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Re-blogged from my Onesimus Files blog. Please click on “view original post” to access complete article.

Onesimus Files

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the testimony of former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi.

I’d come across Qureshi several times over the past year or two, mainly seeing that he had some YouTube videos. For some reason I didn’t pay any attention to him or his videos when I was looking for testimonies of Muslims turning the Jesus.

seeking findingThe book is excellent. It covers his early life growing up as a Muslim, his attempts to prove the truth of Islam to a Christian friend, and then how his own studies led him to consider the truth of Jesus.

He faced a difficult struggle before he could finally turn away from his life-long religion to embrace and accept the gospel, but God was patient and revealed Himself to Qureshi, over time.

I don’t think I’ve come across anyone else’s testimony in which they spent years of diligently searching and studying everything they could to…

View original post 304 more words

Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus

fleeing finding.jpgThis book wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I thought it would be about Muslims who fled from ISIS controlled areas, and in the process of fleeing to safety, found faith in Jesus.

That in escaping extremist Islam, their experiences not only made them question their own Islamic faith, but through that experience they came to know the love of God through Christ.

At first I thought the title was misleading because it didn’t fulfil that expectation. However, about halfway through I recognised the title had a different kind of application. That recognition came when reading the story of a man, an Iraqi Christian from a Christian community. He tells of experiencing a change:

“…it was as if someone took away all my sadness and gave me another light shining on me. I started a new relationship with Jesus, and I felt like a new man, a new person. I found my hope in Christ. I began to see that in some ways I lost everything when ISIS came to Qaraqosh, but really I found Jesus.”

A related, significant reality I found expressed in this book, is the gaping disconnect between the lives Christians in the west, and those of believers elsewhere.

The man mentioned above didn’t have anything like the prosperity that the west takes for granted, but when he lost what he had, he found something much more valuable; something he thought he already had –  and then with the loss of everything else he recognised a sufficiency and wealth only available through closeness to Christ that he’d not experienced before.

There is a vital lesson to be learned by Christians in the west. A lesson that will challenge the seeming obsession with maintaining and protecting a perceived quality of life that is often attributed to God’s blessing. The price of protecting those “blessings” is often a denial of help to people in need, a failure to share those “blessings”.

The author writes of the generosity of the nation of Jordan, who welcomed so many refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, that refugees now made up one in four of the population.

“If that were the United States, it would be like half of Mexico and all of Canada moving in”

Is it necessary to say anything else to address the difference in attitude displayed by western nations with an alleged strong Christian foundation?

The author continues, describing the hardships that have been created,

“…the influx of people looking for cheap accommodations had caused both rents and the prices of staple goods to rise sharply, making life even harder for Jordan’s population. And yet still they open their doors and invite refugees in.”

On questioning a local about the inconvenience of this, he received the reply “What else can we do? Wouldn’t you do the same?”

Sadly most in the west clearly wouldn’t. And neither would many western “Christians”.

I wonder what it will take for THEM to find Jesus.

 

 

Dangerous Love by Ray Norman

Ray Norman was national director for World Vision in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania where he worked with his wife Helene.

His book Dangerous Love looks at the challenges and cost of mission work, where Christian witness requires the casting aside of a lot of “western” preconceptions.

As well-educated and comparatively wealthy foreigners, we easily succumb to the notion that we are somehow higher in the pecking order, that our important objectives and busy schedules should take precedence because “we know best”. And too often our image among the poor is tainted, and our actions reflect a sense of entitlement and thinly veiled arrogance (in spite of our good intentions…

… In much of the world outside of Europe and north America, people are less achievement-oriented and place significantly higher value on relationships. On days after an unexpectedly long exchange with farmers, I might glance at my watch and mumble something to the effect that there was still much I had not accomplished that day. I would often hear words such as, ‘Yes, but those things can always get done tomorrow. At least today we have done the important thing and gotten to know each other better.’

During his tenure in Mauritania, an act of extreme violence against Norman and his daughter Hannah challenged the family’s resolve to continue the work they felt called to do. They were also made aware of inadequacies in the way fellow believers reacted to them in the aftermath of that violent incident.

It seemed that even our own pastor in France, a man who, along with his spouse, had been a source of support and encouragement to us over the years, seemed to strufggle with how to respond to us. He had been informed of what had happened, and once we arrived in Calais we expected to hear from him or his wife but never did. I eventually called him on our third or fourth day there. He told me that he’d heard our news, and he listened quietly as I chatted. But it seemed our situation was beyond him…

Eventually, the healing process began when the family chose to return to their work in Mauritania, and the greatest help came from those intended to be the recipients of the Norman’s ministry work. A clear example of this came from the women of Arafat, a nearby poverty stricken township, who invited Helene Norman to their community.

We understand because we too are women. And we want you to know that we are here to walk with you, to support and encourage you in this experience in which you have suffered deeply. So please know, Madame Norman, that we have brought you here among us to let you know you are not alone on this journey. We are here with you.

Ray Norman reflects on this as his wife tells him the full story:

I stood there in stunned silence , and between her sobs, she began to explain in halting words how the women of Arafat had provided for her, in her deepest time of need, what no friend or gathering among her many Christian acquaintances across three continents (Africa, Europe, or America) had been able, or had the insight to provide. How in the most unlikely of places, she had found common ground with those who suffer, and how God had touched her heart and demonstrated his promise of faithfulness in a remote land through ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25:40)

I haven’t found this book to be an easy read, although there are many interesting parts within it. At times I considered putting it aside and returning to it later after reading something different for a while. However, perseverance paid off.

It starts off “well”, taking the reader up to the life-changing act of violence that frames the subsequent events in the Normans’ lives; and then I felt things got bogged down in uncertainty for a time while the family came to terms with the after effects of their experience and how it could impact the viability of their ministry.
The “payoff” comes in the last few chapters when they decide (Ray reluctantly) to contact the perpetrator of the violence against Ray and their daughter, and in doing so set in motion life changing consequences that only God-inspired compassion and forgiveness can bring about.

Stranger No More, by Annahita Parsan

It wasn’t what I expected.
The flood of Moslem refugees across Europe was constantly in the news two or three years ago, and most books I’ve recently seen about refugees have been about those escaping from Syria.

I thought this would be the same, but instead the story dates back to the late 1970s, early 80s and the Iranian Revolution.

Annahita Parsan’s abusive husband Asghar found himself on the wrong side of the new Islamic government in Iran after the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah of Iran. Together they escaped Iran via Turkey, where they were imprisoned and brutally treated. Eventually they were freed and allowed to move on to Denmark as refugees.

Despite the potential for a new life, Asghar’s violence against his wife increased in frequency and intensity and there seemed to be no escape for her.

But a seed was sown when visitors to her door gave Annahita a bible in Farsi.

Ever since I had been given the Farsi Bible, I had picked it up and prayed from time to time. The worse Asghar’s attacks had gotten, the more I had prayed. I found that it helped, much like drinking a glass of cool water took away the dryness in my mouth on a hot night.

She started to become aware of ideas about God that were different to what she had “learned in a mosque”.

There it was all about fear and rules and the difficulty of earning a route to paradise. I had never thought of God being interested in helping me, let alone being with me all the time. I liked the idea. It gave me courage.

 

In time that courage helped her to take steps towards freedom for herself and her children. Freedom from the violence of her husband and towards the freedom of a new life of faith.

Annahita Parsan now works within churches in Sweden, ministering to former Muslim refugees.