Monday, June 25, 2012

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel

No Rest for the Dead: A Novel, various authors, Touchstone Books (a division Simon and Schuster, Inc.), $15.00 list price, paperback.

When museum curator Christopher Thomas is murdered, his wife Rosemary is tried, convicted, and executed as the killer even though there could have been many suspects given the cruel and manipulative nature of Thomas.  However, ten years later detective Jon Dunn, who was responsible for having Rosemary convicted and has been haunted by doubt that she was guilty, receives information that leads him to believe she was indeed innocent as she contended right up to the last moments of her life.  He sets out to prove that the wrong person was executed and works to find the real killer before more people involved in the case die.

This was a great story and was unique in that it was co-written by 26 top mystery writers (see the list below).  I wasn't sure how that would work or whether the storyline would stay intact but it did, even with so many different writing styles. There were also several characters important to the plot and the story had to fluctuate between the past and the present, but both were handled well without confusing the reader. The story itself was everything I like in a good mystery and held my interest right up to the surprise ending.

The authors contributing to this project include:
Jeff Abbott • Lori Armstrong • Sandra Brown • Thomas Cook • Jeffery Deaver • Diana Gabaldon • Tess Gerritsen • Andrew F. Gulli • Peter James • J.A. Jance • Faye Kellerman • Raymond Khoury • John Lescroart • Jeff Lindsay • Gayle Lynds • Phillip Margolin • Alexander McCall Smith • Michael Palmer • T. Jefferson Parker • Matthew Pearl • Kathy Reichs • Marcus Sakey • Jonathan Santlofer • Lisa Scottoline • R. L. Stine • Marcia Talley

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck



Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Moody Publishers, $14.99 list price, paperback.

From the publisher:
This book presents the case for loving the local church. It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold. It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the "leave church" books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.  Why We Love the Church is written for four kinds of people--the Committed, the Disgruntled, the Waffling & the Disconnected.

People have left the church for many reasons...it's irrelevant, boring, too big, too political, intolerant, not authentic, they got hurt, etc.  What I like about this book is that the authors admit that the church as an institution hasn't always got it right but contend that running away from it isn't the answer and that part of the problem is that there is an unrealistic expectation that the church should not be messy, controversial, convicting, or divisive, when in fact, that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is. 

The result of this "leave the church" movement promoted by several recent books by emergent church authors is the notion of a "churchless Christianity", something that doesn't make sense.  According to the authors, "Churchless Christianity makes about as much sense as a Christless church, and has just as much biblical warrant." Christians need each other. They need the leadership. They need the order. They need the doctrines and the creeds. They need the accountability. ...The main reason...people don't like the church is because the church has walls. It defines truth, shows us the way to live, and tells us the news we must believe in order to be saved."

One of the most powerful statements in the book for me was this: "It's possible the church needs to change.  Certainly in some areas it does.  But it's also possible we've changed - and not for the better.  It's possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation.  It's possible our boredom and restlessness has less to do with the church and its doctrines and more to do with a growing coldness toward the love of God displayed in the sacrifice of His Son for our sins."  Sobering truth.

The issue of the church taking on the roles of advocacy, social justice, and even "revolutionary -change architects of a new world order" on a celebrity level more than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is addressed at length and is a topic I appreciated a great deal.  The authors write, "What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries.  That's my dream for the church - God's redeemed people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God's glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency. ...Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren't ready to be part of the church." 

The message of this book is one of hope for the church as the body of Christ and gives more compelling reasons to stay in the church (or come back to it) than leave it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck



Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Moody Publishers, $14.99 list price, paperback.


I've read various articles by so-called "Emergent church" leaders and was not comfortable with what to me was controversial rhetoric.  As I read Why We're Not Emergent, I was able to pinpoint some of what was bugging me about the movement and why.  They acknowledge that the traditional evangelical church is not perfect and that there is room for "dialogue" (a popular word among Emergents), while at the same time exposing the lack of definition and at times, unbiblical foundation the movement is based on.  They do not disprespect Emergent leaders or the group as a whole, but they do unapologetically use scripture to point out the areas where the movement is flawed.  That is what I liked most about this book.  I hoped for facts that were biblical to give clarity as to what seemed ambiguous about the teachings of the Emergent church and that's what this book delivers.

The authors point out that one issue concerning the Emergent church is not only it's lack of definition, but that it can also be seen as "a new set of conceits - a love of philosophy, leftist politics, and a theology that is more man-centered than God-centered.  To the Emergent, Christianity is a story from which ethics are gleaned, rather than a life-saving proposition." 

The authors detail many teachings that should cause concern for a Christian including the focus on the here and now spiritual experience more than living with eternity in mind.  They write, "The destination matters little. The journey is the thing. ...For emerging Christians, the journey of the Christian life is less about our pilgrimage through this fallen world that is not our home, and more about the wild, uncensored adventure of mystery and paradox. We are not tour guides who know where we are going and stick to the course. ...The journey is more wandering than directional, more action than belief, more ambiguous than defined."

The authors alternate chapters with DeYoung (a pastor) writing one and Kluck (a sports writer giving the layperson's perspective) writing the next.  I enjoyed the difference in their writing styles that made the book all the more interesting.

I recommend this book for anyone who has questions about the teachings of the Emergent church.  The authors make a compelling argument against such teachings in a respectful way and base it on scripture.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery by Bryan Gruley


The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery by Bryan Gruley, Simon & Schuster, $25.00 list price, hardcover.

From the publisher:
Mysterious break-ins are plaguing the small town of Starvation Lake. While elderly residents enjoy their weekly bingo night at St. Valentine’s Catholic Church, someone is slipping into their homes to rifle through financial and personal files. Oddly, the intruder takes nothing—yet the “Bingo Night Burglaries” leave the entire town uneasy.

Worry turns into panic when a break-in escalates to murder. Suddenly, Gus Carpenter, editor of the Pine County Pilot, is forced to investigate the most difficult story of his life. Not only is the victim his ex-girlfriend Darlene’s mother, but her body was found in the home of Bea Carpenter—Gus’s own mother. Suffering from worsening dementia and under the influence of sleeping pills, Bea remembers little of the break-in.

With the help of Luke Whistler, a former Detroit Free Press reporter who came north looking for slower days and some old-fashioned newspaper work, Gus sets out to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when the story leads him to a lockbox his mother has kept secret for years, Gus doesn’t realize that its contents could forever change his perception of Starvation Lake, his own family, and the value of the truth.

***

Gus Carpenter is a journalist who uses his talents for gathering information to piece together clues when it comes to solving a crime.  The fact that his mother is involved complicates matters as secrets from her past come to light that could potentially implicate her in the murder.  There is also a secondary storyline involving his ex-girlfriend Darlene.  It was her mother who was killed and she is also a deputy sheriff so her stake in the case is both personal and professional.  Darlene and Gus find themselves working together to find the killer as old feelings are rekindled.

As more clues surface that reveal secrets about the Carpenter family and those Gus cares about, he must decide whether to leave them buried or use them to catch the killer even if it hurts the ones he loves.

This is the third in the Starvation Lake series but it actually can stand alone without having read the first two so those new to the series and author will not be lost in this story.  I do like this author and look forward to reading future titles by him and specifically about Gus and other characters from Starvation Lake.