Also by this author: Aftermath, Aftermath, Private Justice, Shadow of Doubt, Trial by Fire, Line of Duty, Smoke Screen
Series: Newpointe 911 #3
Published by Zondervan on April 3, 1998
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense
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WHAT WILL IT COST TO KEEP A PROMISE?
Of the four people at the Newpointe post office when the bomb went off, three were killed instantly. The fourth, a five-year-old boy, lies comatose in the hospital and might not survive.
Who would do such a thing? The answer comes in the form of a gunman crashing through the door of the hotel room where Jill Clark is staying. With a rifle barrel pointed at her temple, the young attorney suddenly finds herself the hostage of a desperate man whose actions hardly fit his claim that he's innocent of the bombing.
Only later, when the suspect is behind bars, does Jill wonder whether he's as guilty as he appears. Prompted by a terrifying attempt on her life, Jill and old flame Dan Nichols dig deeper into the case. But standing in their way lies an obstacle Jill hasn't counted on: the power of a covenant. It could change her life. Or, with the clock ticking, it could seal her death.
Word of Honor is book three 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 Private Justice, Line of Duty, Shadow of Doubt, 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.
Blackstock continues the trend of pulling supporting characters from the previous book into the limelight and, in Word of Honor, Jill, Celia’s lawyer from Shadow of Doubt takes center stage as she’s taken hostage in the wake of a post office explosion. Somebody bombed the post office and the guy holding her hostage insists it’s not him. (Which isn’t exactly a compelling argument.) When the man’s wife finally gets him to let Jill go, he’s taken into custody but Jill’s left wondering…did he actually do it or was he set up?
Word of Honor, as one might guess from the title, is about the importance of promises. Teaming up with her old flame, Dan Nichols, Jill tries to track down the real bomber and find out why her hostage-taker was in the middle of it all. The story takes some wild twists from here. Unlike previous novels in the series, where the story followed a simple whodunnit, Blackstock introduces us to the killer and puts us inside his mind. A Vietnam vet with brain damage, the killer is convinced that every federal facility has something to hide and he won’t stop until he’s taken it all down.
The central theme throughout is the element of covenant. The hostage-taker had been set up. He was an unwitting getaway driver. But he refuses to turn on his friend because he saved him in Nam and the two have a covenant to take care of the other. Blackstock gets derailed and detailed on the nature of Old Testament covenant—I would guess her learning about covenant may have been the impetus for this plot—and it really drags the story down. Her sympathetic killer is nearly all-powerful, able to whatever he wants whenever he wants. The police are laughably inept. It’s a bizarre, unrealistic scenario that Blackstock never fully sells.
After a reasonably solid introduction with Private Justice, the last two books in the series go off the rails in melodramatic fashion. As Blackstock ups the ante, she’s not able to cover her plot holes or makes readers believe her scenarios. And believability is key. Every action/thriller/suspense novel or movie is unbelievable. It’s fiction. Nobody gets shot like that and shrugs it off. You can’t drive cars through buildings. It’s not a matter of whether or it’s realistic, it’s about believability. Can the author convince us? Blackstock isn’t able to do that, so even though she has a compelling and sympathetic antagonist, the story falls flat.