Traci Hunter Abramson
Covenant Communications, 2010
In Abramson's previous title, Lockdown, we met a unique team of CIA
operatives nicknamed "The Saint Squad" -- so named because they were all
members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I thought
when I'd read Lockdown that this was something of an improbable
thesis, but it's fiction, and authors are permitted the liberty of
inventing whatever premises they please. In Lockdown, the premise
seemed to work.
In the current title, it seems to work even better. The saintliness of
the characters is less a part of the ongoing storyline and serves rather
as background to the action. And make no mistake, there's plenty of
The protagonists are Special Agent Vanessa Lauton and SEAL squad member
Seth Johnson. Improbably, Vanessa and Seth had fallen in love while
still in school, but Vanessa, a believing member of the LDS Church,
would not marry Seth, a non-member. Their parting is a bitter pill for
Seth to swallow. Later, Seth becomes a member of the Church as a result
of his involvement in the Saint Squad.
Vanessa is working undercover in the organization of a Columbian
terrorist. Her striking resemblance to the daughter of Fahid Ramir, a
terrorist and financier of terror activities, gives her entree into the
Columbian organization. Posing as the daughter of Ramir, she insinuates
herself into their group and lives among them undetected. She manages
to set up a system where she could secretly meet with a contact on the
outside and pass along vital information to the U.S. government.
When Vanessa needs to be extracted from her current assignment, Seth is
sent in. The tension between them is immediately evident -- Seth still
feels the sting of Vanessa's rejection -- but they manage to work
together in their fight against the Columbian terrorist organization.
Almost immediately it becomes clear that the attraction between them is
still very strong. And as they face danger after danger, they are drawn
closer and closer and become a formidable team.
Let's say this at the outset: the action is fairly predictable, but
Abramson manages to pull it off very nicely, keeping you interested in
how various crises will be resolved. In particular, toward the end of
the book, there's a story arc having Vanessa attempting to land a plane
in very bad circumstances. It's a one-two punch of an action segment
that keeps the reader riveted. You know how it's going to turn out, but
you want to read it, anyway. Quite an accomplishment.
As is to be expected from a book by Covenant, there's a bit of
preachiness in the book, and an always-positive presentation of the
Church. But the preachiness is not so powerful as to overwhelm the
story itself -- a real problem with some books I've read. I appreciated
how Abramson managed to keep the action, and the Vanessa/Seth
relationship, at the forefront, while maintaining a faith-promoting
stance toward the Church and keeping the preaching to a minimum.
A quick word about the physical presentation of this book. There has
been some discussion about Deseret Book's decision to reprint the
Gibbons biographies of Church Presidents in a bargain-basement form,
while charging a premium price. One independent bookseller actually
returned his shipment of books to Deseret Book, along with a note
explaining why he wouldn't carry these books in his store! It always
pleases me when I see a book that is produced handsomely and solidly,
still priced reasonably, and edited with care and precision. I didn't
find a single typo in this book. And the production is top drawer.
This book will last a long, long time.
Crossfire is an exciting and pleasing read, good for snuggling up in
front of a roaring fireplace, hot chocolate in hand, and an evening free
to pursue such simple pleasures. Those who want cutting-edge, brutally
honest prose will not want this title. But many want good, solid
writing from an LDS perspective, with enough reality behind the plot to
make it almost believable, but just enough fantasy to make the plot
exciting. Abramson succeeds nicely.