It’s often easiest to review books when they stay inside generic boundaries, and the smaller the box, the better. This is a cozy mystery, this is a thriller, this is a western. If you like what goes in this box, you’ll like this, because it goes in the box you like. Books that go in more than one box, or make up new boxes, or ooze outside of boxes altogether, are harder to review, and to recommend, because sometimes the things that make them worth reading are off-putting to people who don’t usually read those sorts of things (if there even is a “sort of thing” like that yet.)
Peacekeeper, by Christopher Bryan, is not quite as mightily genre-bending as all that. It’s mystery, and fantasy. It’s unabashedly Christian, but it doesn’t have the hectoring tone of the Left Behind series; it believes in a literal heaven and hell, but it isn’t about telling a certain segment of the population that they’re going to one place or another. It draws heavily on Charles Williams, on C.S. Lewis, and even on George Macdonald for inspiration, but it’s set in contemporary Britain.
Peacekeeper is the sequel to Siding Star, in which we met D.I. Cecelia Cavaliere and her officers of the peace, as well as her friend, the Anglican vicar Michael Aarons. In Siding Star, they averted a literally apocalyptic scenario through supernatural means, and Peacekeeper picks up just a few months later. The book begins with a murder-robbery that seems unconnected to anything that’s gone before. But this time, the evil Academy has a new plan for ending the world — global nuclear war — and the Detective Inspector learns about it only through her meticulous policing and her willingness to listen to what’s gone seriously wrong in her world.
This book is engaging, fast-paced, and reasonably well-written. There are visions, saints, and demons here, but the main power is that of the human will: apart from a little bit of time travel (Doctor Who fans will get a nod), the only real supernatural intervention is that of ideas. It is human beings — their greed, cowardice, pettiness, and lust for power, or on the other hand, their joy, love, delight, tenderness, humor, and loyalty — that decide what this earth will be. Bryan believes in the physical goodness of the earth, given by God: red wine, good food, sex, sunshine, and perhaps especially animals. Those who reject life, love, and goodness in favor of death, self, and cruelty are rejecting God himself. Bryan may be drawing on Charles Williams, but he doesn’t have his asceticism.
One criticism: Bryan doesn’t just get inspiration from C.S. Lewis, he outright cribs from him. There’s at least one scene and possibly two in this book that are simply taken from Lewis, in their exact outlines and much too precisely in some of their wording. I think Bryan is capable of writing originally; the trap of admiring someone else’s writing so much is a hard one.
There are at least two more books in this series. I have one more (Singularity) on my shelves, and I’ll see when I get to it. These are quick reads! I didn’t announce this at the beginning of January, just because I forgot to, but I’m spending at least this month and maybe February reading from my TBR shelves. They have gotten a little out of control — for me — at 38 books. (Remember that I do 98%+ of my reading from the library, and normally get books only at my birthday and Christmas!) I’m making good progress, so you may see Singularity here soon.