Also by this author: Aftermath, Aftermath, Private Justice, Shadow of Doubt, Word of Honor, Trial by Fire, Smoke Screen
Series: Newpointe 911 #5
Published by Zondervan on January 1, 2003
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense
Buy on Amazon
At the request of her many fans—Terri Blackstock revisits the heroic cast of characters in this fifth book in her best-selling Newpointe 911 series In Line of Duty, a bomb explodes at the Icon International building in New Orleans while lawyer Jill Clark Nichols is in the top floor boardroom. The thirty-story building goes up in flames and fire departments from all around the area are called in. The firefighters from Newpointe are especially concerned since they know Jill is inside the building. Dan, her husband, rushes in to save her. But as firefighters work to evacuate the upper floors of the building, a second and third bomb explode, causing the lower floors to cave in. Firefighters and civilians are buried beneath the rubble. When the smoke finally clears, a count is taken. Jill narrowly escapes the chaos of the explosions and fire only to find Dan missing. Were the bombs the act of a terrorist, or a scheme coming from a heart of greed? Can Jill’s faith carry her through these long days of pain and uncertainty? And will Dan survive this tragedy . . . or sacrifice his life in the line of duty?
Terri Blackstock has been a banner name in Christian fiction for over twenty years. I’ve found some of her books riveting and some of her books lacking. Recently, I decided to go back to some of her older books that I’d never read and see how her stories and writing style had changed and progressed. I started with Newpointe 911, a five-book series published between 1998-2003, that focuses on a group of first responders, their families, and way more drama than you’d expect from a small town.
Line of Duty concludes the series and is the first to be written post-9/11. That’s important because Blackstock wrote the novel as a response to the terrorist attacks that changed American life forever. As the series had primarily focused on firefighters, the characters and the story were especially relevant and poignant. The story follows the collapse of a skyscraper in New Orleans and the fate of all the major players in the drama.
Jill, now married to firefighter Dan, is on the top floor boardroom deposing the company’s CEO when the fire alarm goes off. She starts to evacuate, but the first bomb goes off before she gets out. The Newpointe fire crew are called in to fight the fire, with Dan desperate to find his wife. The opening chapters are riveting. Blackstock captures the fear and the panic well, accurately depicting the darkness and claustrophobia of it all. Some make it. Some don’t. Some are unscathed. Others aren’t. And once it’s all over, how will the Newpointe crew put all the pieces back together and move forward? More than that, will they be able to catch the bomber?
This is the first book that scales out to give readers a view beyond Newpointe—a necessary thing as Newpointe doesn’t exactly have any 30-story towers. That makes the story feel less insular and more realistic as the characters become a part of the story rather than the totality of it. They don’t control all of the events and there’s nothing wildly unrealistic.
I had narrowed down the bomber to two suspects, precisely what Blackstock wanted, and was genuinely unsure which she’d pick as her bomber. Her choice is the right one, I think. She also throws in shades of Enron and economic corruption, with the corrupt CEO disappearing in the wake of the bombing and being one of the two potential suspects.
I was thankful that Blackstock did not go down the “Muslim terrorist” route, because it likely would have been unhelpful and only contributed to anti-Islamic sentiment. However, she does have a subplot where three Middle Eastern men have the police called on the, for “acting suspicious” and are detained. Blackstock appears to have been making the point that these men shouldn’t have been arrested simply for being Middle Eastern, but she keeps them detained for days despite them having no connection at all to the bombing. Their alibis check out. They were in college classes with witnesses when the bomb went off. And then Blackstock just…leaves them there. No discussion of what happens to them. I appreciate the plot point of “not all brown people are terrorists” but give me some closure!
This is by far the best entry in the Newpointe 911 series. Maybe because the stakes are higher. Maybe because I’m better connected with the characters. But mostly because Blackstock has developed as a writer, better integrated the faith content, and found her stride in pacing. It’s a good entry and fitting conclusion to the series.