A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE: A Faith Abbey Mystery
David Manuel. Paraclete, $19.95 (294p) ISBN 1-55725-346-3

Manuel’s fourth Faith Abbey mystery finds Brother Bartholomew quietly investigating the disappearance of two statues from a Boston museum, a pursuit that takes him from his native Cape Cod to Boston, Portugal and Pamplona, Spain. There’s also a poorly integrated parallel plot in which he foils the deadly plans of Muslim terrorists—a story line that seems to exist for no other reason except to ratchet up suspense and create a compelling harbor chase scene. However, the draw of this novel is not seamless plotting but multifaceted, wise characters, who grow and change in ways that are inspiring yet realistic. Manuel is an intelligent writer who beautifully weaves Bartholomew’s faith journey with far-flung and fascinating locales. The mystery also offers soaring riffs on the transformative power of art, literature and music. (Nov.)

Edward K. Rowell. WaterBrook, $10.99 paper (176p) ISBN 1-57856-724-6

Stereotyped characters and a didactic tone mar this well-intentioned evangelical novel by Rowell, a pastor, writer and public speaker. The usual suspects are all here: the well-manicured, social-climbing villainess; her henpecked husband; his sainted mother; the kind but broken-down widower. Rowell employs the well-worn plot device of using a tangible object—in this case, an old journal—as a window into the past and a vehicle for the characters’ redemption. Despite the predictable characters and plot, the novel’s inspiring message of “living on purpose” will be well-received by CBA readers who have enjoyed similar injunctions by nonfiction authors like Rick Warren. (Oct. 21)

Alton Gansky. Zondervan, $12.99 paper (352p) ISBN 0-310-24959-7

This well-paced Christian mystery features strong writing, an original plot and ambitious use of time travel and theoretical physics. Captain J.D. Stanton (featured in two previous Gansky thrillers) brings five troubled teenagers on a weeklong sailing expedition to learn values and, he hopes, a bit about Christian faith. A terrible squall disrupts their trip and leaves them “dead in the water” (without electricity or communications); then a 1907 battleship, uninhabited and seemingly untouched by time, appears out of the fog. One of the teens must overcome his own pain and bitterness to save the ghost ship from being destroyed—and save his companions as well. Gansky is a skilled writer, and readers who are interested in naval history will enjoy this unusual maritime suspense novel. (Oct.)

John Fischer. Revell, $12.99 (96p) ISBN 0-8007-1839-9

This brief allegory by Fischer, a Christian singer and songwriter, traces the journey of a show horse that decides to leave its comfortable, conformist existence in favor of freedom on the wild plains. Where once he had striven to deceive others into believing that he was all white—the coat color most prized by horse lovers—the stallion comes to recognize his own natural beauty. “White isn’t what you look like,” says his liberator. “It’s what you do when you follow the will of the White One.” The allegory explores the Christian ideal of breaking through external boundaries to answer the call to discipleship; in one scene, the horse runs through a brush fire and finds refuge in a stream—a clear reference to the saving waters of baptism. The story can be a tad obvious, but the novella’s brevity and gift packaging will ensure reader interest. (Oct.)

HOW MANY ROADS?: Hearts of the Children, Volume 3
Dean Hughes. Deseret, $22.95 (512p) ISBN 1-59038-172-6

In this third installment of the LDS Hearts of the Children pentalogy, the Thomas grandchildren deal with the tumult of the late 1960s. Diane finds that marriage to Greg is not the fairy tale she was expecting, and her cousin Gene leaves his wife and baby to do a tour of duty in Vietnam, despite his personal misgivings about the morality of the war. Kathy continues her soul-searching, directing her liberal activism through the 1968 presidential election and then serving a stint in the Peace Corps. Across the ocean, Hans finds a deeper faith in an East German prison, relying on God and what he remembers of the scriptures to cope with the interrogation by the Stasi. Hughes writes with compassion and love for all of his characters, marrying impeccable historical research with perceptive insights into complex moral issues. (Sept.)