James David Jordan,
(B&H, 2008)

Forsaken is billed as a Christian suspense novel. Certainly its plot lends itself to suspense: the daughter of the world's most famous televangelist is kidnapped by Muslim terrorists, who demand the televangelist renounce Christ on TV. Upon receiving the first threats from terrorists, evangelist Simon Mason hires former Secret Service agent Taylor Pasbury as his security chief.

So the plot has potential. Unfortunately, its development kills all of that possibility, as well as every opportunity for suspense. Jordan may have created the first suspense novel with no suspense. Maybe, though, we're not being entirely fair. Even though the press release that accompanied the novel describes it as a thriller and the blurbs on the back cover call it a suspense novel, perhaps the author had more than thrilling action in mind. Maybe he wanted to write a mainstream novel exploring the problems of faith.

If that's the case, he failed on two counts. Forsaken doesn't hold up either as a thriller or as a mainstream novel. The problem? The plot is not developed. Nothing is adequately foreshadowed; things simply happen out of nowhere. About the only foreshadowing comes at the end of nearly every chapter when Pasbury, the narrator, relates some variation on the old had-I-but-known formula. Rather than achieving a smooth pattern of rising action, heading toward a climax, Forsaken proceeds in jumps and stops. Jordan frequently halts the action to give us multi-page scenes in which people talk about things unrelated to the plot.

The characters are paper-thin stereotypes. Pasbury is the bad girl, struggling to get over her past, a top-notch gunfighter and skilled agent who breaks into tears at every emotional moment, while Simon Mason is Christ-like in his goodness. His daughter is the astonishingly mature young woman who hides her pain from her father. We've met them all before and can predict exactly how things are going to develop.

The question we are supposed to focus upon is just what the relationship is between Mason and Pasbury. We know it isn't simply boss-employee because he pretty much rejects every security idea she raises. The author intimates that some secret exists and its revelation is supposed to be the killer moment in the novel. Unfortunately, it is telegraphed and readers are going to arrive at the big secret long before they are supposed to.

Forsaken is billed as the first of a two-book series. I don't think I'll be on board for the second one.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

13 December 2008

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