Monday, September 20, 2010

Murder in the Air – Bill Crider

© 2010 St. Martin’s Minotaur, New York

If you are like me, you always look forward to a trip to Blacklin County. One reason is that it reminds you so much of your home in East Texas. Another is that the characters and stories that emanate from the mind of Bill Crider are endearing, funny, and readable. And yet another trip to Clearview, the county’s seat, brings another tear to your eye—whether from nostalgia, laughter or allergy, I’m not saying.

Dan Rhodes faces another intriguing case when the county’s most despised man surfaces face down in a local fishing hole apparently drowned by accident. The problem is, the case is too easy to be closed this way, and something keeps niggling at Rhodes’s brain. As it turns out the local chicken baron (Lester Hamilton, also known as the deceased) has met with fowl play (puns always intended in Blacklin County). The local character/fisherman Hal Gillis who found the body, also becomes one because he knows too much. And now Rhodes has two murders to solve—with the help, of course, of ace deputy Ruth Grady, comic relief Hack and Lawton at the jailhouse, and the Carl Burns imitator CP (Seepy) Benton who actually teaches math at the local college (instead of English as Burns does). And they do it all without an M-16 (go read the book).

Interesting notes on this installment of the Dan Rhodes mysteries is the reference to Nick Carter instead of the 87th Precinct boys at the hands funeral director Clyde Ballinger, and the pubisher’s final decision for title of the book which seems less appropriate than the author’s own choice, which you’ll have to drag out of Bill.

Fans of serial murder mysteries will want to grab a copy of this one fast. And while you’re reading you’ll want to keep an eye opened for the references to nostalgic pop culture like Zero and Dr Pepper, and the book and movie titles and descriptions thrown in for good measure. Another five reading glasses, Bill. Keep them coming. (Of course if it’s up to the publishers, then tell them I said so.)

Benjamin Potter, September 20, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Life Unhindered: Five Keys to Walking in Freedom – Jennifer Kennedy Dean

© 2010 New Hope Publishers, Birmingham

Prayer is certainly important part of Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It must be, considering that she is the author of Live a Praying Life (among others) and the Executive Director of The Praying Life Foundation. With this new book, this respected author and speaker is adept at Bible study as well.

In Life Unhindered Dean studies in depth Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Dividing the scripture into its phrasal parts, she develops (as promised by the subtitle) five keys to being set free to live an unhindered life:

  1. His Platform (focusing on the previous chapter in Hebrews in response to the mention of the “cloud of witnesses” to which the “therefore” refers).
  2. His Provision – how Christ empowers His followers to rid themselves of entangling sin.
  3. His Power – the strength that He gives to run the race of Life.
  4. His Presence – reminding readers that Christ dwells with and in us.
  5. His Promise – finding the freeing release of the promises that are embodied in the Word of God.

The book itself is an inspiring reminder of how God wants us to live our lives free of the struggle with sin in which all of us find ourselves. Dean takes great care to handle Scripture wisely, and her attention to research is evident in the writing. The book includes the chapter-ending questions for thought that have become so popular in works such as this one, as well as a leader’s guide attached as an appendix in case someone might desire to use this book as a group study. I would suggest that the reader—whether as an individual or as part of a group—keep a copy of the Scriptures handy as Dean takes you on a tour of the Bible in her effort to unify the study.

There is a drawback to this kind of study, though, and one that many preachers often run into in the course of preparing sermons that remain true to the Scripture. And that danger is working overtime to break down the Bible verses being studied. To compound this sin (that sometimes cheapens rather than deepens what we can learn from the Bible), Dean decided to alliterate her points—which is another trap into which preachers fall.

That said, the opening chapters (which focus on the “cloud of witnesses”) may be the most valuable part of the study—and worth the purchase price of the book. I would recommend this study with four out of five reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, September 4, 2010

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