I might be the only avid fiction reader of mysteries, suspense, police procedurals, thrillers, etc., who had yet to read a James Patterson novel. Just after Christmas, a friend of mine gave me Merry Christmas, Alex Cross to try. The prolific author and creator of the Detective Alex Cross character (among others) ranks as Numero Uno of the NYTimes bestselling authors with the most novels to hit the number one status on its lists. The number of books he's written is off the charts. He churns them out like opinions. Honestly, I expected him to be a hack who could tell a good story - and, frankly, I've heard him described that way. Having said that, the two-pronged plot for this story was both realistic, entertaining, and well done.
It's Christmastime in DC, and even cops' families have expectations of time spent together especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Although those might be unrealistic in many cases, it's a hope not easily discarded just because some criminal or whack job decides Christmas is the perfect time to stage a grand event of lawbreaking or terrorism.
It's Christmas Eve, a huge snowstorm approaches, and a former celebrated attorney decides his ex-wife, their children, and her present husband should die. He's barged into their home and has them in complete submission with his personal supply of meth and other drugs and an arsenal of weapons. Detective Cross is familiar with the man, who rose to the top in a prestigious law firm through two prominent cases, which is why he is summoned to assist in subduing the intelligent lunatic. Cross's family is none too happy to see him leave their celebration, but duty calls.
Cross finagles his way into the home, unarmed, and must listen to the man's ranting and abusive treatment of these people who he once loved - with the exception of the new husband who is first on his list to be exterminated. When there is gunfire, Cross is hard-pressed to make a way to get this guy into custody before SWAT must risk an all-out assault.
When things are finally under control, Cross makes his way home and hopes Christmas Day can be enjoyed after a few hours of sleep and some of his grandmother's sweet bacon, but a female terrorist has been spotted and Alex's friend and former associate from the FBI calls putting an end to any Christmas joy.
The two plots are distinctly different. I don't know if this is a pattern in Patterson's novels, but they served to demonstrate the often consecutive draws on a LEO's life regardless of time of day or night or special occasion or holiday. Families are forced to endure the abrupt absence of their loved one and the fear this causes. In Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, we see the wilting stamina forced upon Cross after enduring hours and hours with little rest to get one perpetrator into custody and then figuring out the grand plan of a mastermind terrorist before something horrific happens to a large number of people. The toll of what occurs during these two events leaves scars on the psyche as Cross fights to put it all behind him.
I found Merry Christmas, Alex Cross to be well-written and entertaining with realistic characters. To my surprise a healthy dose of faith and Christianity were included, and profanity was kept to a minimum. I recommend this quick-read for those who enjoy police procedurals with strong characters good and bad.
Father, I pray James is one of yours and that you will continue to supply him with good stories that ultimately showcase the gift you've given him. May he inspire others to look to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
CM passed an attractive woman on her way down the hall, her face puffy from crying. When she reached the double doors leading into the ICU, her mom came out to meet her, her eyes like those of the woman she’d just passed. Her mom reached out and hugged her only child.
“Come in and talk to your father. Thank you for getting here so quickly.” Her words lurched from her mouth.
CM wanted to reply but couldn’t and numbly followed her mother.
He lay in the hospital bed with a heavily bandaged leg. His handsome face, though lined and telling a bit of the tale of his fast living, was bruised, and a rather wide bandage spread across his forehead with a patch of blood expanding through the center of it. Several tubes grew from his arms, his color pale, almost ashen.
After letting CM take in his appearance, her mother stated, “He’s lost a lot of blood. They’re going to operate soon because they think he’s bleeding internally.” Her mom stopped a sob with a deep breath.
CM struggled with the reality of the situation, and she fought against fainting. She could feel her sight being threatened by a blackness creeping around the sides of her eyes. She looked for a chair, found one and sat down fast, dropping her head between her knees.
Immediately her mother knelt down in front of her. “Honey, are you going to be alright?” Her voice soft.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” she said weakly, keeping her head down. “You don’t need this.” She sucked in some deep breaths, furious with herself. Finally she dared to raise her head, taking another deep breath. She placed her arms on the sides of the chair.
Hearing the voices, Eric Rutheford became conscious again. “CM,” he rasped.
CM took another deep breath and turned in her chair. “Yeah, Dad. I’m right here,” she managed to say quietly.
With considerable effort, he moved his arm over so he could reach her hand. She clasped it. “Mom said you have to have some surgery,” she said, trying to keep her voice level.
“CM, I need to tell you a few things before I go,” he labored.
“Dad, please, it’s too hard for you to talk right now. You can tell me after surgery. I’ll be here. We’ll both be here.”
“No,” he replied quickly and more firmly. “Honey, it has to be now.”
Her dad hadn’t called her “honey” since she was a little girl.
“I’ve been a terrible father to you and a worse husband to your mother. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really understand it until a few months ago.” He coughed, pain in the sound. CM forced deep breaths again and strained to hold back tears. “I thought—as stupid as it sounds—I thought I was just living my life. That this was just me.” She watched him strain to get his thoughts in order. “Please, help me,” he whispered, looking above him at the ceiling.
CM jumped up. “What do you need, Dad? The nurse? Some water?”
A trace of a smile crossed his lips. “No, just bear with me, honey. Sit down. I’m trying to get this out in case I don’t make it out of surgery.”
“Dad, don’t be saying that! Of course you’re going to make it out of surgery. You know what? You shouldn’t be trying to talk. Mom, tell him. He should rest up for surgery.” She babbled. Her tears flowed. Out of control. Everything beyond her control. Why in the world was there never any control?!
“Honey, listen to me now,” he said with more strength but with a kindness she couldn’t ever remember him having when he gave instruction.
“I’ve been a louse. I hurt your mother and you to the enth degree. I was a coward—I was afraid of settling down and taking on responsibility. I wanted to be the dashing playboy because I was so afraid I’d be a rotten father. I never gave myself a chance to be one. I bailed on your mother and you for the first time after only two years of marriage even though I loved her. CM, I’ve always loved your mother and you.” The tears began to drain from her father’s eyes, causing her to nearly convulse from holding back her own. “The other women were toys. I know that’s ugly, and I’m truly ashamed, but I thought I needed them to make me feel like a man, to make me feel like I was worth something. I gave up real love with you and your mom for this counterfeit empty sex thing, and I want you to know how terribly sorry I am. I am just so, so sorry.” He began to sob, and CM fell apart.
“I love you, Dad,” she managed to say.
“Then will you do me a favor, honey?” he asked wearily, his strength ebbing.
“Yes, Dad. What?”
“A little bit ago, I met Jesus Christ. I asked Him to forgive me for what I’d done to you and your mom and everyone else in my life. He’s become my Savior, so if I don’t make it out of surgery, I’ll be with Him in heaven. I’ll be alright either way, CM. I don’t blame you if you can’t forgive me for what I’ve done, but I hope you can find a way—the only way I know to find forgiveness is through God. Would you consider investigating the Lord for me, CM?” He paused and fought for a breath. “Please, honey, would you do that for me?”
She looked at her dad, unable to compute what he was saying to her. He might as well have asked her to eat a big horned toad. She looked at him as if she’d never seen him before and then she looked across the bed to her mother who sat expectantly, holding on to his other hand with both of her own, a faint smile on her lips.
“Will you, honey?” he asked with less strength and his eyes closed.
Just then the attendants arrived with a gurney to transport him.
“CM?” he asked as he forced his eyes to look directly into her stunned blue eyes.
“Sure, Dad. Yeah, I’ll do that for you,” she managed to answer a little above a whisper.
“Thank you, sweetheart. So much,” he said before they took him away.
CM sat in the chair unfamiliar in this world. She glanced toward her mother who’d stood when they took her father, still staring down the hall, now empty. Her mother seemed to be in control of her emotions now—how such a thing would ever be possible again for herself CM had to wonder. My dad met Jesus Christ? He might as well have said he met Superman or the Green Hornet. Was he delirious from medication? She almost wished he was.
Father, again, I thank you for every word, thought, inspiration. And thank you is never enough. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Authors come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. We write tough, soft, humorous, horrifying, and thrilling. Our styles reach from lean prose to the profuse. Our voices strike all tones and notes. The one thing we all have in common is the need for our work to be liked, enjoyed, praised, loved. It's no secret we can be a vulnerable lot often consumed with self-doubt and dread of failure. Oddly enough the main way those feelings can be dispelled is for strangers to exalt us.
The writing community is clique-ish. Like-minded souls bonding. Authors from certain publishing houses banding together. Lovers of genres forming groups to encourage and bolster one another.
Let's not forget the need to extol the virtues of a favorite writer. Readers who don't write books - and some who do - can forget how much a simple word of praise for another's novel can propel another reader to try it. A recommendation from a published author can go a long way in convincing another reader to pick up a copy of an author with whom they're unfamiliar. And what it does for the author is immeasurable.
Established authors, don't forget how much you needed that special affirmation that, yes, you are indeed a talented scribe. If you can, read one unpublished author's work a year just because. Hopefully, somebody gave you that time, that urging to continue.
And although time is scarce enough, your harried writing life interferes with all kinds of other things, there's an author out there with the same schedules to keep struggling to find some other professional who will read their work, published or unpublished, and give them valuable feedback. Not criticism, not condescension, not "it would've been better if . . .", but rather, hey, there's some good stuff in there even though I don't read your genre - or something like that. Virtually anything positive is a blessing.
Remember what you needed the most . . . and return it to another.
Lord, help me to be kind, truthful, forgiving, and helpful. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Combining action and drama with ride-or-die friendship and humor, LETHAL WEAPON reimagines the hit movie franchise, as it follows classic cop duo Riggs and Murtaugh, who work a crime-ridden beat in modern-day Los Angeles.
Grief-stricken after the loss of his young wife and unborn child, ex-Navy SEAL-turned-detective MARTIN RIGGS (Clayne Crawford, “Rectify”) moves to California to “start over” at the LAPD. He’s paired up with ROGER MURTAUGH (Emmy Award nominee Damon Wayans, “My Wife and Kids,” “In Living Color”), who’s just coming back to the job after a near-fatal heart attack. Riggs’ penchant for diving headfirst into the line of fire immediately clashes with Murtaugh’s prudent, by-the-book technique.
Judge for yourself. I'm enjoying it.
Father, there are innumerable people to whom you've given tremendous talent. May they acknowledge the author of that talent and find you are the author of their lives. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
. . . some good books to read to start the year off right, here are some of my favorites in no particular order of preference - I loved them all. Notice I did say "some" because these are from the thriller/mystery/suspense veins. I guarantee you can't go wrong with these. (Their reviews are all here on the blog if you need them.)
Father, please bless these authors with your divine provision, grace, and all the assistance they need to do what you've called them to do. Encourage them, Lord, when they need it most. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I'm going to pay Ronie Kendig the highest compliment I can muster. "Tox" Russell now ranks second only to Mitch Rapp on my list of character loves. She captured this warrior's soul, his damage, pain, angst, guilt, frustration, and determination while building his larger than life persona striving to conceal all of it.
Suffering the consequences of a tragic black-ops foul-up, Tox has been "dead", residing in Africa in a forged friendship with a faith-filled Nigerian man who the "resurrected" Tox describes as his conscience.
Unusual circumstances lead Tox back to the USA where he manages to secret himself away in the presidential suite to wait for his estranged brother Galen who happens to be the POTUS. He also happens to be the man who stole Tox's girlfriend and married her many years ago. Galen is now a widower and Tox feels responsible for his ex's death. Once Tox comes out of the shadows, he cold-cocks his brother and waits for the Secret Service to catch up to him.
Turns out there's a job to do. They need Tox's "skills". He is promised certain things if he will do this, but Tox knows their promises aren't trustworthy. He agrees to the mission if he can pick his team. The team doesn't know Tox is alive and they don't know what happened to make him disappear - and he can't tell them. They're not happy with their perspective, but to a man they show up at the final departure.
This story is a complex imaginative tale that begins at a dig site in the Saudi Arabian desert (come to think of it, where is there not desert in Saudi Arabia?). A flighty, faithless, but spunky Israeli woman and her elderly close associate and faith-filled Dr. Joseph Cathey lead the dig, she hoping to redeem her reputation, and she happens to be Tox's lead man "Ram's" sister with whom Tox once had a relationship of sorts.
Simultaneously, there is an aging grandfather in New York who floats in and out of the present and spends most of his time at his granddaughter's home returning to his memories of his deceased wife.
There are stories of flaming arrows killing people from the inside out, thefts of holy items, Tox's group traipsing to India, Syria, Israel, London, and Spain to piece together a terrible puzzle that has unleased a new old plague. Tox is at the end of his rope patience-wise while having to solve all the deadly riddles with little real information.
Tack onto all of this he's discovered the beautiful and strangely familiar FBI agent "Kasey" (aka Haven), assigned to the overall team for her specialty in recognizing deception, is more than a familiar face from the past. Their history surfaces and morphs dramatically into the present. Tox struggles in wanting to keep her at a distance but knows he's got to protect her above all else. The difficulty and conflict in their association produces some distraction for him but ultimately proves to be what they both seek.
The story weaves back and forth with all of these parts which at times can be confusing before they begin to tie together, but just because that methodology is not my preference in story development doesn't detract from this well told thriller. Authentic action spurts from the pages as the warrior spirits of Tox's team allow their former loyalties to surround each other. The Nigerian keeps Tox focused and serves as a quiet and strong beacon of faith throughout.
The extended journey to discover the "conspiracy of silence" compels the reader to pay attention and yet the mystery persists. God does His part and the story concludes in hope.
Highly recommend this novel by Ronie Kendig who honors the military and elite forces with her stories and words. A very good thriller with an "in'Tox'icating" protagonist.
Father, please keep Ronie safe from all harm and continue to bless her writing, filling her with more stories to tell. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Hard to believe the infiltration of superstitions into everyday life. Wearing your "lucky" socks, hat, jersey, whatever, to influence the game and produce a win. Not stepping on sidewalk cracks to "protect" someone's back. Spilling salt and heaving a pinch over your shoulder to ward off "bad luck". I've caught myself adhering to superstitions along the way and quickly rebuked them for the lies that they are.
The Word of God doesn't speak kindly to superstitions, magic, and other arms of witchcraft. Why? Simply because when we set our sights on anything but God to influence, control, regulate, and manage our lives, we're rebelling against yielding the lives He's given us to Him. We're deciding we have a better shot at life without Him - yet we rely on ridiculous happenstances governed by foolish notions of "luck" and lame assertions of fantastic equations which have no bearing in or on truth. Superstitions are falsehoods designed to suggest we must follow crazy rituals to insure particular outcomes.
No: it definitely "ain't the way".
Lord, forgive us for our failings and help us to avoid those things which are unpleasing to you. We're desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Some of you live where these pictures detail what you experience in the wintertime. Some of you live where these aren't nearly cold or icy enough. Others of you live where the sun shines most of the time and if the temperature hits 50 degrees, you're shivering. Wherever you live, wintertime wears its own clothes, has its own aroma, and does as it pleases.
I've decided to be a little bit more forgiving of wintertime. It's not my favorite season, but it carries its own stark beauty. I decided I can handle the temperatures in the 30s with no problem, maybe even the upper 20s. Those temperatures can be dressed for. Below those demands more than I can seem to find to assure warmth if exposed to them for very long.
Wintertime can either be the harbinger of death or the hopeful reminder that spring does follow. Really it's our choice on which we care to concentrate when going through the extremes of the season. Life in seasons . . . each with its own beauty, dread, joy, or sorrow. We choose, we experience, we learn, we persevere.
Lord, thank you for it all. You make it doable. You make life matter. Thank you, Jesus.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Your eyebrows might be raised at this picture being associated with Christmas, but I'm going to reproduce a portion of the sermon from the late David Wilkerson titled "Christmas: Resurrection".
. . .
When I look into the manger in Bethlehem, I see resurrection coming.
Paul Harvey [also deceased] tells the story of an atheist scientist who traveled to college campuses for decades to lecture on how God couldn't possibly exist. Years later this man became a Christian. Whenever he was asked why he converted, he answered with one simple word: "DNA."
Inside every human being is this amazing discovery called DNA. It's a unique identifier so accurate that someone can be proven guilty of a crime if his DNA is found at the scene. DNA is complex, yet it can be taken from something as simple as a strand of hair. In it, scientists have discovered a "genetic code" with billions of bits of information that, linked together, are unique to that person.
Who created this incredible phenomenon that boggles the mind? Who has known the unique genetic code of every human being since Adam and Eve? Only God. He not only numbers every hair on our heads but has impressed our unique DNA into each strand. That's what humbled the atheist scientist: the magnificence of a Creator and his ever-impressive creation.
God knows the DNA of every person who has ever lived - and he knows how to reconstruct it when he raises us up on the last day. This should put to rest all the strange doctrines that have arisen over the years about the resurrection. . . . The truth is our imaginations simply can't fathom the glory of God. Our brains are too finite.
. . .
Resurrection - it is why he came!
Father, turn those hard hearts to Jesus. Only you can touch them. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
If you like thrillers and frame-ups, you'll enjoy Shooter produced by actor Mark Wahlberg with Ryan Phillippe staring as a retired formidable military sniper Bob Lee Swagger whose former Captain, now an FBI agent, supposedly enlists his help for protecting the president from a possible attack while setting him up to take the fall in an assassination. Don't know how long it will last, but it's worth the time to watch his character's journey to expose those who set him up.
Father, there is much sorrow and pain in this sin-stained world. We're all desperate for you whether we know it or not. Please help those who have yet to know you find you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The lovely picture above consists of "high resolution". If you're familiar with photography/film and the terms, you know high resolution implies it's clearly and distinctly defined by color, light, contrast, and detail.
If you're discussing New Year's resolutions, you will think of defining goals, specifics and details particular to your desires or needs.
Simply put, I don't make resolutions. There are certainly "things" I hope to avoid in the new year, and there are other things I genuinely want to make happen, but I'm an "in-the-moment" type of player and confining myself to goals I might not be able to achieve or others that only I think I should attain makes zero sense to me. Promising myself to accomplish specifics has failed me more than once, so instead I let the year play out day by day in hopes of actually doing things that God wants and tells me to do without interfering with His plan for my scheduling.
So. January 1st, 2017, finds me spiritually hopeful. Apart from the Lord, I can do nothing. Period.
I do ask that all my cyber friends and visitors will be able to do whatever they deem important or necessary to fulfill whatever needs and desires they have going into this new year. Thank you each so much for coming here and may something I write or display or comment on provide blessing, encouragement, truth, and love to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
While the cover in this third novel is not quite as striking as the other two, neither do Nicolette (Nic) and Cassandra (Cassy) Rivers' dominating personalities come through as strongly in their younger red-headed cousin, new Deputy Jolie Murdoch, although Jolie can get fiery when sufficiently provoked. Between her father, the former sheriff, and the knock-out Australian who purposefully fought with American marines, Xavier Hartmann, Jolie Murdoch is finding plenty to get upset about.
While pursuing a missing teenage girl after a parade in town, Jolie discovers Xavier Hartmann, former marine and current bartender at the Kildeer Pub, near a dead man with his blood on Xavier's clothing. Not only is Xavier unsure of why or how he got near the dead man, he realizes his prosthetic leg is not attached. Due to an IED which killed his brothers-in-arms, he also suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and the onset of a migraine threatens him as he attempts to figure out what's happened. He realizes he just had another blackout and can't be sure he didn't kill the man lying on the ground in front of him. Because of how it looks, he's the number one suspect in the dead guy's murder. Before he can remember anything, he winds up in the hospital and the sister and brother no one knew he had show up to make sure the doctor knows his condition.
The dead man is the missing girl's derelict father, and although circumstantial evidence makes Xavier the obvious person-of-interest in his murder, neither Jolie nor the sheriff and Detective O'Conlan (Nic's husband) really believe he did it.
During the course of the investigation, Jolie discovers the similarities between this young girl's disappearance and a cold case of a missing girl handled by her father when he was the sheriff. The tension and tempers flare during her investigation, and the attraction between Xavier and Jolie flames.
The mystery and suspense of both the murder investigation and the connection between the two missing girls force Jolie to see her brother who's serving a long sentence in jail. His bizarre clues to the previous missing girl compel Jolie to take a hard look at the cold case honing her innate investigative skills which she's doubted and puts her in danger.
The dual meaning of the title is revealed as Xavier's secret is exposed and Jolie solves the cases.
Jolie begins the story as a timid, somewhat confused rookie but finishes with passion and panache.
I love Winter's stories, writing, and character development, but I'd prefer less profanity because she doesn't need it to get her points across. She wraps up her books neatly with satisfying endings after some treacherous and suspenseful events which leave her strong protagonists better for their experiences even after being terrified.
Recommend this well done series.
Father, please continue to give Winter more stories and bless her time set apart for writing them. Keep her safe and inspired. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Christmas Day is over. Past. The Spirit of Christmas remains in many of our hearts as we treasure the meaning and pack it up to carry it with us through an approaching new year. Nothing surpasses the hope, the sadness, the suffering, the love, the joy, and life of the Christmas season. Born to die only to live and give eternity to those of us doomed to enter hell without Him, Jesus came to lead the way to His father, restoring us to a place without sin and sorrow after exiting this life.
Yes, it's a miracle. All of it. Hard to believe. Stretches any miniscule faith of the human kind. Too big for imagination. Too grandiose to be man-made. Too perfect to accept in a world marred with secular humanism, arrogance and self-important mind games - none of which change the bigger Truth. Take it or leave it. Our individual choices.
The amazing order and creativity cannot be attributed to chance or chaos forming it. We are a specific design, made for a purpose that surpasses what we know as human beings. It's bigger. And nothing we can achieve on our own.
We can embrace our weakness stained in sin or we can reject anything that interferes with what we choose as "reasonable". We can seek the One who gave His life to save our souls or we can trust our humanity to do it for us - and fail miserably. Again, our choices.
Reflecting on the One who loves me in spite of me.
Thank you, Jesus. Be with me everyday of those you've given me.