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Abramson, "Crossfire" (reviewed by Jeffrey Needle) Options · View
Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010 3:36:26 PM

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Title: Crossfire
Author: Traci Hunter Abramson
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 239
Binding: Trade paperback
ISBN10: n/a
ISBN13: 978-1-59811-944-2
Price: $15.95

Reviewed by Jeffrey Needle

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 action here.

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.

Jeffrey Needle
Association for Mormon Letters
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