A man apart, carrying a secret and possessing dangerous skills honed by years of training. He wants to escape the shadows and come into the light, only to be forced back into the darkness. We’ve seen that character many times. In A Cross to Kill, Andrew Huff adds an intriguing twist: what if the assassin spy wants to be a country preacher?
John Cross was the best in the business, and the CIA sent him all over the world to “terminate hostile targets.” Though the work provided him with a dream apartment and luxury sportscar, his life was empty. Then, while on a mission in Spain, Cross experienced a change of heart and the killer could no longer kill. Instead, his only desire was to know more about and serve Jesus Christ. Eventually, he found himself leading a Baptist church.
The CIA, unwilling to just let him go, took him off hit jobs but kept him on call for rescue missions. Cross accepted, seeking redemption in saving, rather than taking, lives. The novel launches with one of these rescues. Christine Maxwell, an up-and-coming reporter, has been kidnapped and is about to be killed on Livestream. Cross interrupts. What follows is as gripping an action sequence as ever opened a James Bond movie. Bullets fly. Cars and motorcycles crash. Huff excels at bringing mayhem to life on the page.
Cross turns an unconscious Christine over to the care of the military hospital and withdraws into his lonely parsonage. But the reporter works her sources and tracks down her rescuer as he’s preaching his Sunday sermon. Of course, more danger follows, leaving Cross to struggle through what it means to practice his newfound faith as his past encroaches on his present.
Huff has a good time contrasting the life of a spy with that of a pastor, and he uses it to full effect. In the midst of a car chase Cross gets a phone call from one of his congregants, a little old lady who wants to talk his ear off about women’s Bible study materials and the End Times. The scene is played for humor, but also raises the stakes as the distraction could cost Cross his life.
There are two ways to approach a spy novel. One is to tell a realistic story, full of drawn-out, quiet tension. The second way is going full Hollywood. Fans of the former will be unimpressed. But for those who like the instant gratification of fistfights on speeding trains, explosions in the night, and daring leaps of faith, there is plenty here to enjoy. And with two more books planned in the trilogy, the action isn’t going to let up any time soon. (Kregel)
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