Monday, December 29, 2014

Books That Changed My View of Christian Mystery/Suspense

I started reading Christian fiction in its infancy. Gilbert Morris was one of the most prominent authors at the time, and I read nearly every book he wrote - YA, mystery, historical and more. Terri Blackstock was just getting started, and I became a fan of her writing from the beginning. I spent several years reading a mix of Christian and secular novels.

In college, I made the decision to stop reading secular fiction. My reading time was limited, and I wanted to get away from the bad language and inappropriate content of the mysteries I'd been reading. When I moved exclusively to Christian fiction, I found a few more good authors, but something was missing. The gritty, realistic mysteries I loved didn't exist in Christian fiction at the time. Around the same time, I got married and started a family, and for a while, I quit reading fiction altogether.

A few years later, my boys were getting older, and I found myself craving good fiction again. I discovered some great authors, but I was still looking for something more. Then I discovered Ted Dekker. Everything I knew about Christian fiction was turned upside down. Over the next several years, I discovered several books that changed my view of Christian fiction and turned me back into a voracious reader.

1. Thr3e - Ted Dekker

This was the first book I picked up when I decided to start reading fiction again. My boys were one and four. I was a stay-at-home mom looking for the kind of fast paced fiction I'd loved as a teen and college student. I'd heard good things about Dekker's books, so I splurged and bought a copy.

I had no idea what I was in for.

I started the book one night, curled up in a recliner in the study at the parsonage. Two days later, I finished the book, but I still couldn't pull myself out of Kevin Parson's world. I was so drawn into to the story that I couldn't put it down. By the end, I sat in that old recliner, shocked, thinking, "Did he really just do that? He can't end it like that, can he?"

This was exactly what I'd been missing. That book reignited my passion for reading, and I devoured as many Dekker novels as I could. I wanted to branch out and find new authors, though. That's when I found Steven James.

2. The Pawn - Steven James

I picked this up as a freebie on Amazon a few years ago. I'd had my eye on this author for a while, because his name kept popping up as an Amazon recommendation when I bought Ted Dekker books. The Pawn blew me away. Fast paced with a unique angle on crime scenes, this was another book I couldn't stop reading. FBI agent Patrick Bowers remains one of my favorite fictional characters.

The final book in the series, Checkmate, was released earlier this month. I have to admit, I'm a little reluctant to read it because it marks the end of this incredible series. Thankfully, there are more Patrick Bowers books coming in the future.

3. The Bride Collector - Ted Dekker

This was a controversial book for a lot of people. I thought it was a brilliant idea when Ted Dekker started working with a non-Christian publishing company, moving some of his books into more secular fiction circles. What an opportunity to reach people who wouldn't normally read Christian fiction.

This book took an even darker turn that his previous books. While it was a turn-off for many readers, I thought this book reached a new level. The message was toned down a bit, but it was definitely still there. The writing was brilliant. The mentally ill main character was unforgettable. Just don't read this one alone at night.

4. Isolation - Travis Thrasher

I thought Ted Dekker scared me...until I read Isolation. Not for the faint of heart, Travis Thrasher walks the line between suspense and horror. He pulls in a theme of spiritual warfare in this story of a missionary couple desperately in need of rest and healing. Unfortunately, they find themselves under attack. The message in this book is amazing, but it's definitely for readers who enjoy an edgier story.

What books have left their mark on you? Which authors make you look at life and faith differently?


  1. I love Steven James too. Checkmate is a great ride, Amanda. You'll love it! I did! Have you tried Zachary Bartell "Playing Saint?" My review for the book was a couple of weeks ago here. I enjoyed that book roo. He writes like Decker and James. Happy New Year!

    1. I'll have to try Zachary Bartell. Thanks, Kelly! With Christmas and sick kids, I've gotten behind on blog reading. I'll check out your review.

  2. I started out reading Peretti and Jenkins. Then I didn't read much for a few years after college (after years of reading textbooks). During this same time, I didn't write as much. Once I started writing again, I started reading more Christian fiction. I have read and enjoyed many Dekker books. I have heard good things about Stephen James, but I have not read any of his books. Thanks for introducing me to Travis Thrasher. While suspense is my favorite genre, I enjoy the writing of Sarah Sundin because of her characters arcs and purposeful prose.

  3. Peretti was a profound influence on me with the Darkness books, particularly "Piercing The Darkness" (which I read first, even though it was his second in the series). Firebird by Kathy Tyers is another fiction book that had an effect on my life.

    I've had two lines from books that impacted me this year. One was "Churches aren't judgmental. People are" from Nancy Mehl's Gathering Shadows. The other is "Prophets always have enemies" from Prophet by R. J. Larson.

  4. Peretti is great! I think The Oath is my favorite of his. I love those lines - great thoughts.

  5. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, the prophet kahlil gibran book

  6. Peretti was my gateway into Christian fiction. Love his stories. Thanks for mentioning some Christian writers I hadn't considered yet, such as Travis Thrasher. I love suspense that's really suspense!