Wednesday, November 22

Blood of the Lamb by Michael Lister

Review by Diana Bane

Michael Lister is the real deal and so are his books -- this is a man who writes what he knows and does it well.

THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB is the second of three books so far that Lister has written with protagonist John Jordan, a prison chaplain at a Florida prison. The author himself is a resident of Florida and was a prison chaplain for seven years before he took the leap of writing full-time. He's handling difficult material here on a couple of levels, the prison setting with all its heavy, claustrophobic nature, and the moral/spiritual message inherent to the main character. That Lister manages to walk a narrow line without falling off in both these matters is no small feat.

The plot centers on a visit of an Evangelical Christian preacher to Jordan's prison, a minister who is a born-again ex-con. Although as chaplain Jordan should have been consulted before scheduling a guest minister into his chapel, the warden did not do so, perhaps because the warden's nephew works as a bodyguard to the preacher. The preacher brings his wife and young daughter, Danielle, with him. Little girls inside the walls of prisons are an absolute no-no, and Jordan is incensed … and worried. He is right to worry, because the little girl is killed inside Jordan's locked office during the prayer service. It was obvious on first sight that Danielle was adopted, since both the parents are white and the little girl was black. There is racial tension all the way through the story, and it is a factor in dealing with the child's death. The investigation is closely akin to a classic locked-room mystery, but the prison and the prisoners are so realistically portrayed that the classic elements are far from obvious.

Lister writes well. John Jordan is a moral and spiritual man who struggles with his faith, and struggles too with the stereotype that the word "Christian" has become, particularly in the Deep South. Very seldom does this become tedious, and it is never in-your-face. Nor does the spirituality of the writing get in the way of advancing the plot, particularly since it's integral to the protagonist's character development.

Yet I have some concerns for Michael Lister as an author, precisely because he does this so well that his book is not likely to be carried by the so-called Christian bookstores, yet there is a bit too much of specific spirituality for the mainstream. Because he writes so well, he may be able to overcome this obstacle and I hope he does. The first book in this series is THE POWER IN THE BLOOD. The third, which was just recently published, is The Body and the Blood. I will certainly try to read them all, and I wish him great success.

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