Also by this author: Aftermath, Aftermath, Shadow of Doubt, Word of Honor, Trial by Fire, Line of Duty, Smoke Screen
Series: Newpointe 911 #1
Published by Zondervan on April 1, 1998
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense
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Staying together had seemed impossible.Now it's their only hope.A dark shadow of fear has fallen over Newpointe, Louisiana. First one, then another of the town firemen's wives has been murdered, and a third has barely escaped an attempt on her life. Incredible as it seems, a serial killer is stalking this sleepy little southern community. And Mark Branning's wife may be next on the list.Mark is determined to protect her. But keeping Allie alive won't be easynot with their marriage already dying a bitter death.Unless they renew their commitment to each other and to God, someone else may settle their problems ... permanently. And time to decide is running out.'This tense and exciting thriller is more than a fabulous read; it has an underlying message about the place of religion within a marriage. Highly recommended.'Library Journal Private Justice is book one in the Newpointe 911 series by award-winning novelist Terri Blackstock. Newpointe 911 offers taut, superbly crafted novels of faith, fear, and close-knit small-town relationships, seasoned with romance and tempered by insights into the nature of relationships, redemption, and the human heart. Look also for Shadow of Doubt, Line of Duty, Word of Honor, and Trial by Fire.
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.
My best description of the books would be “Christian soap opera.” They’re cheesy, dated at this point, overly preachy, and written so that the mystery (if there is one) is pretty easy to solve. Blackstock had a background in writing Harlequin romance before becoming a Christian and changing her writing to Christian fiction and that style shows through. It’s a clean, faith-saturated easy read that appeals to middle-aged Christian women—the primary audience for Christian fiction.
Private Justice introduces us to a cast of characters and a setting we’ll know well by series’ end. For now, our protagonists are Mark and Allie and the setting is the small town of Newpointe, Louisiana. The story begins with a fire and a murder. The murder came first and the fire was maybe an attempt to cover it up? Even worse, the victim was the wife of one of the firefighters. Soon, it becomes clear that the killer isn’t just killing—he’s specifically out for the wives of Newpointe’s firefighters.
Mark is one of those firefighters. He’s recently separated from his wife, Allie, yet he still cares for her and wants to make sure that she’s safe. The two struggle to define their relationship as it becomes clear that Allie is the killer’s next target. As you might imagine, putting their relationship through the literal and metaphorical fire is just what’s needed to rekindle the flame of their romance and bring them back together.
Insofar as the action, the fiction is fiction. There’s a known serial killer but the only police presence is the small town cop? No state police? No FBI? They know that the killer is targeting firefighter wives but some are still left unprotected? There’s a shooting at an airport and the guy gets away?—well I guess this one did take place in pre-9/11 times. Blackstock doesn’t always get me to suspend disbelief, but it’s done well enough. The culprit seemed pretty clear throughout, just lacking a motive, but when motive develops it does so hard, fast, and out of left field entirely. It’s not a great mystery, but its serviceable.
Probably my biggest issue with Private Justice—and this is a recurring theme in these books—is the theology of suffering and God’s will. Blackstock often goes out of her way to paint the evil in her books as God’s will that God will redeem. In this instance, the serial-killing arsonist is the impetus for the redemption of Mark and Allie’s marriage. That’s good, of course. But to say that God willed all those other people to die just to get a marriage back together? Not so much. God makes beauty from ashes, but he doesn’t create the ashes.
In the end, I can commend Blackstock on offering a “Christian” alternative and even though I think some of the plots are unrealistic and simplistic, even though it’s overly preachy at points and the theology is a bit suspect in areas, I can understand why her books and her writing style became popular. Blackstock’s writing has matured through the years, changed with the culture, and usually blends elements of faith into the story better with a more realistic storyline.