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The List
The List
by Robert Whitlow
Edition: Paperback
87 used & new from $0.01

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turning novel that stays with you, January 20, 2004
This review is from: The List (Paperback)
It's ironic that in reading Robert Whitlow's novels to date, the last one I'd get to read would be his first novel. I have to say I've enjoyed all of his novels, each for both the same and different reasons. And while reading his books, you'd think I'd be able to say--oh yes, this was written first and this one written more recently, I honestly couldn't tell which was first, middle or last written except by the date on the copyright page. Whitlow is just that good--and the List is just a great novel.
The novel is like a combination of the legal chase thriller that was the Firm or the Pelican Brief with the spiritual warfare made real as done by Frank Peretti. And the good news is--Whitlow puts distills both into a form that is imminently readable and thoroughly enjoyable. The List is a book that once I started reading, I found it virtually impossible to put down. I cared about what happened to the characters of Renny and Jo, seeeing where the journey took them. I enjoyed their budding romance--seeing it in the wonders and pitfalls of an emerging relationship. I also liked hearing about the list and the lengths taken to keep it secret and how Renny learns to signing his name to something can have serious consequences. Hearing the spirtitual struggle of Renny and the battle waged for his soul is compelling and outstanding reading. The novel never lags and always keeps you intereted. Whitlow has done a superlative job with all of his books and the only thing that disappoints me is now I've read all of his books that are currently published and must wait for the wonder of discovering his worlds in a new novel.
If you're looking for strong, intelligent contemporary Christian fiction, look no farther. Even if you're just looking for a page-turning, moving and enjoyable novel, you can't go wrong here. The List is another great entry from great author. I can't recommend this book or any of Whitlow's other novels enough.

The Sacrifice
The Sacrifice
by Robert Whitlow
Edition: Paperback
88 used & new from $0.01

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defies expectations, January 5, 2004
This review is from: The Sacrifice (Paperback)
Legal thrillers are a dime a dozen these days. For every Grisham, there are three to four other others turning out formula legal thrillers in an attempt to cash in on the popular trend in publishing. Which is what makes the works of Robert Whitlow such a marvelous find--they are legal thrillers, but they're well told, entertaining, page turning stories, the likes of which I haven't read in the legal genre since the earliest works of John Grisham.

Robert Whitlow is an amazingly talented author and that keeps showing through again and again in his work.

"The Sacrfice" is no exception to this rule.

What could have been little more than an exploration of a possibly racial motivated incident in a Southern small town (ala "A Time To Kill") instead turns out to be much more. "The Sacrifice" is an intimate examination of the events and circumstances that shaped the character of the protoganist, Scott Ellis. Ellis has returned to his native town to begin practicing law and gets his first big case--defending a young man who is accused of shooting into a baptism service at a local African-American church. The case isn't helped by the fact that the young man is a bigot, whose outward appareance and internal attitude reflect this. As he takes on the case, Scott also accepts a position to work with the local high school's mock trial team and is unexpectedly reunited with his high school sweetheart, Kay. Kay is going through a divorce and the relationship didn't end on a good note between them--Scott just let the relationship wither away.

As the novel progresses, you slowly begin to realize that this is a character study of Scott. He's never really allowed himself to be close to anyone for fear of causing or recieving pain. He can't be open with others or himself and he really only has an abiding friendship with his constant dog companion, Nicki. Slowly over the course of the novel, Scott's pattern becomes more and more apparent--as do the reasons behind it, which I won't give away here as it may ruin some of the enjoyment of the novel. We see Scott struggle--not only with his renewed feelings for Kay, who is going through a divorce, but also with his feelings about his friends, his client, his life in general and his relationship with God. One particularily powerful scene comes when Scott attends the church where the shootings occurred to possibly get information on the case and is almost confronted by the minister about his personal walk.

What surprised me most about this book was how quickly the pages turned. Whitlow's work has proven to be rivetting and compelling in the past, but "The Sacrifice" went above and beyond that. We come to care about Scott and what's going on in his life and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough at times. This is truely one of those novels that goes by far too quickly and the only regret you have when you've finished is that there isn't more of this great story to keep reading.

In addition to our journey with Scott, we also get an examination of evil and how it is at work in our world, sometimes hiding in plain sight. Whitlow builds the suspense of this storyline well in the story of Scott's journey and it leads to a truly compelling and page-turning conclusion. It is also extremely powerful to read, especially in the light of what we learn about Scott over the course of this novel.

"The Sacrifice" is a rich, compelling novel. It is Whitlow's third book and the third book of his that I've read. In fact, while I have one more of Whitlow's novels left to read, I think this one might be my favorite. Whitlow has crafted a novel that is next to perfect and I heartily recommend it.

The Trial
The Trial
by Robert Whitlow
Edition: Paperback
107 used & new from $0.01

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not a "Trial" to read this great book..., December 27, 2003
This review is from: The Trial (Paperback)
Attorney Kent "Mac" MacClain is on the brink--nine years earlier, he was at the wheel in a horrible accident that took the lives of his wife and children. Mac is having a spiritual crisis--feeling unable to deal with the deep pain and hurt the accident placed upon his heart and soul and decides the time has come to end his own lfie, when the phone rings in his office. He has been asked to take on the case of Pete Thomason, a man who is accused of killing Angela Hightower, the daughter of a family of high power and prestige in the small town in which Mac lives and works. Against Pete is not only a mountain of compelling evidence but also the fact that he cannot recall any details of the events leading up to the death of Angla.

Both men face a spritual crisis. Both men are fighting for thier lives.

So begins Robert Whitlow's second novel, "The Trial." After thoroughly enjoying his work on "Lfie Support" I was eager to find more of Mr. Whitlow's work. I'm happy to say that the great storytelling, character development and page-turning suspense of "Life Support" are also very much at work here in "The Trial." Whitlow balances a lot of separate story threads--Mac's spiritual crisis, his budding relationship with Anna Wilkes, a pyschologist who evaluates Pete, the story of Pete and what is happening to him in the prison and the pain and suffering of the Hightowers as they try to make sense of what happened on that night to take their daughter. "The Trial" is more than just a legal thriller, it's also a murder mystery that will keep you turning the pages to find out who did it and why.

But, as with "Life Support" the greatest parts of "The Trial" are not the moments in which we have the stunning revelations of who commited these acts and why, but insted Whitlow's character creations and the building of his setting for the novels. As with "Life Support" it's the little details that make this books so compelling to read. It's easy to see bits and pieces not only of yourself but people you might know in your daily walk in the characters who inhabit Whitlow's novels. Mac is a man who goes to church on Sunday, but his attendance is dictated on how the Gerogia football team did the following day and he has a Sunday School class full of fellow fans (and despite my beign a die-hard Tennessee fan, I didn't mind this too much...esp. since the Tenenssee-Georga game that Whitlow tells about his book has the Vols winning...but I digress). We see prayer circles that pray for Mac, we see Mac meet Anna and her young son, who awaken some long forgotten feelings deep inside him.. We see Mac serve as a mentor to a new young attorney and we see him fight for the life of his client. All of this while struggling with his own internal demons. Mac is a compellng character, as are all the characters in this novel. "The Trial" resists the urge to give us one-dimensional characters. Instead, each character is uniquely human with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, all of which are on display here in the novel.

"The Trial" of the title not only refers to the court case that Mac wants to win but the spiritual war that goes on in both his and Pete's soul. The novel features a lot of twist and turns, but Whitlow always keeps them grounded and feeling authentic, something that can be difficult to do.

The other great strength of this novel is that Whitlow superbly uses the elements of a typical Christian thriller and makes them fresh and new. He never strays into the cliches. As the novel progresses and certain events happen, they feel natural, coming out of not only the flow of the narrative but also on what we know about the characters from the previous chapters.

All in all, "The Trial" is a compelling and dynamic read. It is a novel that I heartly recommend to anyone looking for a great legal thriller inhabited by compelling and interesting characters. Whitlow has captured the imagination of this reader and I cannot wait to read the next of his novels. If I wasn't a fan before, I most certainly am now...

by Ted Dekker
Edition: Hardcover
147 used & new from $0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A page turning thriller, December 17, 2003
This review is from: Three (Hardcover)
Ted Dekker's Three is a fast-paced thrill ride of novel that hides a deeper purpose--an examination of the duality of good and evil. Kevin Parson is a 28-year old seminary student who has escaped from a stiffling past. His biological parents were killed in a car wreck when he was one and he was raised by his Aunt Belinda, who was a strong, sheltering influence on him. Kevin escaped and looks to build a new life until a mysterious man named Slater begins hounding him. Slater is fascinated by a sin from Kevin's past and the number three. Slater begins a game of cat and mouse with Kevin to get Kevin to confess the sin.
Three is a fast-paced action thriller that will keep you turning the pages. Dekker does a great job of setting up the characters and putting events in motion and sustaining that motion as the story builds toward the conclusion and denoucnement of who and what Slater really is. I also have to give Dekker credit--he does throw in a few red herrings to keep you guessing, though the solution of who and what Slater is and why he wants what he wants is a bit telegraphed about three quarters of the way through the book. But even if you figure out the central twist of the novel, Dekker's style and examination of the nature of good vs evil will keep you going until the end. And while he does wrap up this story, you will find yourself wanting to know more about the lives of Kevin and his friends, Samantha and Jennifer, after the last page is turned.

Life Support (Santee, Book 1)
Life Support (Santee, Book 1)
by Robert Whitlow
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.99
180 used & new from $0.01

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, thought provoking reading., December 9, 2003
Ever since John Grisham wrote "The Firm" and it became a run-away bestseller, legal thrillers have become a dime a dozen. Lots of book publishers have sought to cash in on the trend toward the public's interest and the legal thriller has almost become its own genre-so much so that I fully expect it to get its own section in the bookstore someday. So, it probably shouldn't come as too great a shock that there would, eventually, be a subset of the Christian publishing genre for a legal thriller.

What was shocking was how good it turned out to be.

Robert Whitlow's "Life Support" is a legal thriller-and it's one with a Christian emphasis. But I'd easily put this legal thriller up against some of the best the secular publishing world has to offer. "Life Support" is just that good.

Rena Richardson did not have a happy childhood and she's not grown up to be a happy adult. She married an heir to a family's good fortune and has grown to love the good life. She wants to keep all that-the thing is she doesn't want to keep her husband, Baxter. So, one day while hiking she pushes him over a cliff and makes it look like an accident. But in a cruel twist of fate for Rena, Baxter survives and is put on life support. Rena wants to terminate it to cover her own secrets, but her fat her-in-law, Ezra has another legal document that gives him control over Baxter's life-and he very much wants his son to be living so he can exercise his power of attorney. Ezra has his own agenda as well-he's not all on the up and up and his company harbors some shady secrets he'd rather see kept out of the light of day.

Enter into this attorney, Alexia Lindale, who is assigned by her law firm ,which represents Ezra, to go in and mediate things. Rena draws Alexia into her web of lies, leading to Alexia's termination and striking out on her own to represent Rena in a battle against her former employers. Along the way, Alexia meets the musical director at a local church and finds herself being drawn not only to him but also to a newer and deeper relationship with God.

"Life Support" is a fascinating character study and one in which the pages fly by. Unlike a lot of other contemporary Christian fiction, the characters are all not lily white, but are instead real human beings. For as much of a one-note villain as Rena could be, Whitlow invests her with just enough likeability to make us feel some sympathy for her and to understand her plight. And as much as Alex and the music minister are the heroes of this novel, they are still human enough to have faults, doubts and foibles. It makes the pages come alive because we feel like all these characters are real people-not just one-note characters the author has created to hammer home his own agenda or point.

And although there are some things that are the standard stock of your basic legal thriller and your basic Christian-oriented novel, Whitlow blends them together seamlessly in his novel. This was a great book and one that I found myself sorry to see end-even though it does end at a crossroads with a promise for more to come in 2004.

I've not read any of Whitlow's other work, but after reading this one, I am definitely eager for more. Whitlow delivers a page-turning thriller with a profound and heartwarming message at the center. Just like life, there are no easy answers, but that's what makes this book such a pleasure to read.

Popped (Regan Reilly Mysteries, No. 7)
Popped (Regan Reilly Mysteries, No. 7)
by Carol Higgins Clark
Edition: Hardcover
162 used & new from $0.01

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, quick read, October 6, 2003
More than anything else, it's the setting of Carol Higgins Clark's new mystery novel, "Popped" that will draw readers into it. The setting is on the set of a possible reality show about hot air ballooning--with the payoff coming at the Alburque Balloon festival. What will keep you turning the pages is the novel fast pace and quirky characters. And what will leave you feeling a bit let down by the story is an ending that just rings a bit hollow, with an odd twist that should have been better foreshadowed by the events that come before it. All in all, this is a fun novel to read, but it's not necessarily a great story. The central mystery is intriguing enough, though it lacks a really great twist and resolution to make it truly satisfying in the end. The novel also suffers from a bit of predictablity--especially in the final few pages.
Honestly, I wish this one had been a bit longer. The first two thirds of the book do a nice job of setting up the circustances and the quirky characters only for the second half of the book to rush to a resolution. It's a shame really because the book is a fun, fast paced read, but it does leave you hungering for something more once the final page has been turned.

Three (Star Trek: Stargazer) (Bk. 3)
Three (Star Trek: Stargazer) (Bk. 3)
by Michael Jan Friedman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
46 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great, August 7, 2003
Honestly, I don't know what I keep giving Michael Jan Friedman Trek novels a chance--or more importantly my hard earnec cash. I think it's because I remember the simple joy I had reading his early Trek fiction works such as Legacy and Double, Double. I keep picking up his books hoping that the spark will be there again--and time and again I come away feeling disappointed.
Such is the case with Friedman's entry into the on-going Trek novels with the Stargazer series. I wouldn't necessarily say that Friedman's Stargazer books are necessarily bad, but when compared to the stories being told by Peter David in the New Frontier series and the super work done by multiple authors in the DS9 relaunch, the Stargazer series isn't living up to expectations.
I will give Three some credit--it didn't make me want to hurl it against the wall like the past story in this saga did. That is probably damning by faint praise, but it saved the book and my walls a good deal of abuse.
The story is a pretty standard one. A mysterious woman who looks like one of the established set of twins--Gerda and Idun--mysteriously shows up on the Stargazer. Meanwhile, Vigo is meeting with an old mentor to see a new weapon design--that is until terrorists take over the base to try to start a revolution. Honestly, I've got to admit the Vigo plotline never really drew me in. It seemed to be a bit of a distraction from what was really interesting--the stranger from another universe who may or may not have her own agenda. (Of course, she does...and it's so heavy-handed in how it plays out over the course of the book. I will give Friedman credit that he tries to play a red herring in the book but it is so obvious as to be laughable).
Part of the problem with the book is it's too choppy. Friedman doesn't carry on a scene for more than two or three pages and that gets distracting after a while. Also, the ending comes a bit too quickly. It almost seems as if Friedman had a set page limit and tried to force an ending into it rather than allowing it to happen as a function of the plot.
So, why do I keep coming back to the Stargazer series, you ask. Honestly, I am intrigued by the concept of Picard as a young man who might make mistakes. Also, seeing the admiral who hates him so much and the lengths the admiral goes to keep Picard out of the limelight is intriguing.
And I keep hoping to find the type of storytelling that hooked me on Michael Jan Friedman's Trek novels to begin with. This book has moments of it, but they are too few and far between.

The Sundered: The Lost Era 2298 (Star Trek Lost Era)
The Sundered: The Lost Era 2298 (Star Trek Lost Era)
by Andy Mangels
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
54 used & new from $0.01

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Character driven Trek novel, August 7, 2003
The best Trek fiction these days isn't coming from within the established series themselves, but instead in novels set outside of the events we see on TV. One only has to witness the brilliance of Peter David's New Frontier series or the on-going continuation of the DS9 story to see this.
And this month, Pocket books attempts to expand the series of original Trek fiction even further--this time by answering the questions of what happened between the death of James T. Kirk in Generations and the first time we saw the Enterprise in Encounter at Farpoint. It's an intriguing idea, if not necessarily an original one (TOS did it with the underrated Lost Years saga) and its really the type of thing the Trek fiction should be doing.
The first entry is the Sundered, written by the phenomenal writing team of Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels. The story is one of Captain Sulu and his time aboard the Excelsoir, negotiated a peace treaty with the Tholians. But along comes a new race of aliens who hold a secret that just may unravel the delicate peace process and drag not only the Excelsoir but the entire Federation into war. Along the way there is a murder, some space battles and some guest appareances by Trek characters we've all heard of before.
Martin and Mangalis take a page from the DS9 re-launch and allow the story to be character driven as well as dependent on the plot to move forward. We get moments to enjoy gettting to know the crew of the Excelsoir--both old and new friends--and we also get some exploration of the societies of the Tholians and the new aliens. It's the character moments that make the story a real page turner and help it rise to the level of quality that has been achieved by the DS9 relaunch.
That said, the story does fall prey to some rather heavy-handed foreshadowing. There are flashbacks that take place within the story to certain events that will impact the plot later. Unfortunately, by doing this, I was able to guess the plot twist that was coming about fifty or so pages before if happened. Also, the authors suffer from something that a lot of modern Trek writers are falling prey to these days--novelizing scenes from classic Trek episodes. While it's not nearly as bad as the Michael Jan Friedman trilogy "My Brother's Keeper" it's still annoying enough to take you out of the novel for the few pages its include (also, thankfully they don't fall into Friedman's trap of novelizing the entire episode for us).
But the good points far out weight the nitpicky points in this novel. This is one of the more enjoyable Trek novels I've read in a while and it's got my interest up not only for the next book but the entire Lost Era series. It also makes me wonder if a series featuring Sulu and his Excelsoir crew wouldn't be welcome. I know there are already a lot of on-going Trek fiction series out there, but if the stories for Sulu and company are going to be this good, I think I could make a bit more space on the bookshelf for more such stories.

Dead Famous
Dead Famous
by Ben Elton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.35
330 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A diverting little mystery, July 18, 2003
This review is from: Dead Famous (Paperback)
Ben Elton takes a page from the Agatha Christie style of murder mystery--bring together a group of potential suspects, let a murder occur and then have an outside try to piece together the threads that will deliver the solution. Elton's twist on this classic story of the genre is to have the murder take place inside a reality TV show house where all the action is broadcast to the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With all that coverage, how could someone commit the crime in question, much less have there be a mystery surrounding it?
Edlund does a nice job with creating the situation and populating it with interesting characters. And the hook of the murder taking place inside a Big Brother type house is enough to keep you turning the pages. There are lots of red herrings in the book and the identity of the murderer won't be too shocking when you finally find out who it is. But the mystery itself isn't necessariliy what I'd call terribly deep or complex. But then again, this book isn't intended to be deep and complex on the same level as a Minette Walters or an Elizabeth George novel.
Instead, what you get are some rather memorable characters that inhabit the story. There's an awfully lot of rather witty dialogue and some interesting observances on the popularity of reality TV and what it means to our culture. Also looked at is the type of people who go on these shows. Yes, there's a lot of emphasis on wanting to make things sexy and interesting for the sake of ratings.
In the end, the story isn't necessarily the deepest, but the book is still an entertaining one. It's not going to require a great deal of thought. It's an ideal read for a long summer afternoon by the pool or after a long day of work when you don't want to work the grey cells too much.

Violets Are Blue (Alex Cross)
Violets Are Blue (Alex Cross)
by James Patterson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.00
413 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Trite and pedestrian, November 1, 2002
...After being thoroughly disappointed by the last two novels by Patterson that I picked up--his Murder Club series--I figured I'd give him another chance with the latest Alex Cross story, Violets Are Blue. ...Violets are Blue is just plain deplorable. The sentence structure reads like something out of a "See Spot Run" book and the storytelling isn't much better. Supposedly, Cross has been pursued by some person called the Mastermind... However, the secret to the identity of the Mastermind is so obvious from the first 10 pages of the book that it's not really any fun to keep on reading and find out if your suspicions are confirmed or not. As for the rest of the story--involving Cross investigating a series of murders based around a vampire cult and maybe falling in love with his co-worker...well, it's pretty much yawn inducing the entire way around. ...

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