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November 28, 2013


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(from back of book)

The Church Builder
Book One
A. L. Shields
The Church Builder (The Church Builder Series #1)
Published October 8th 2013
 by Zondervan
(first published July 1st 2013) 

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(from Goodreads)
The Church Builder is the first book in a series of at least three Christian-themed thrillers written by A. L. Shields, the pseudonym of New York Times bestselling author Stephen L. Carter. Each story is fast-paced and intricate, with the clock ticking as the protagonist battles malevolent forces. Harry Stean is an architect who designs traditional church buildings and cathedrals around the world. A former believer but now an agnostic, he is also an expert on the historical use of symbols in Christianity; that special knowledge is the key to each of the stories. Each of the novels revolves around a centuries-old struggle between believers and a shadowy organization known simply as The Garden, which has devoted itself, working entirely in secret, to the destruction of the faith. Manipulating events from behind the scenes, the Garden has devoted itself patiently over the centuries to what it calls 'snakebites'---causing tiny scandals here and there, enough to shake people's faith just a little, hoping, as time passes, that the cumulative effect of its work will bring an end to belief.

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This first novel of A.L.Shields (Stephen L. Carter, Professor of Law at Yale) is going to carry on in a wonderful series.   The plot revolves around two secret societies opposing each other while involved in a religious battle. There is a wide variety of characters that is hard to know who is good and who is evil. The story moves at a fast pace which at times it is hard to keep the characters straight.It is a roller coaster ride with lots of twists and turns.  The book is full of evil and good.   The problem is, how  do you know which is which?
Now we have two deaths.  Six months ago, Bethany Barclay's best friend was murdered.   Bethany now finds the body of her ex-boyfriend on the floor of her home.  Alongside him is her gun. Her friend Annabelle had told Bethany something before she died.  On the wall is painted a strange symbol that reminds her of what Annabelle had said.  Bethany thinks the two murders are related but the police think she is the killer.  She knows she must find the connection to the two murders but she must get away so she runs.  On top of the murders she is now linked with a bombing. Can things get any worse? Bethany realizes she has been set up and there are several groups after her. One group is composed of individuals whose leader is the Builder.  This group called The Garden are trying to protect the Church and the right to religion.  Then we have the Wilderness who are just as determined to destroy religious faith.  Why are they chasing Bethany?  What has she done?   Does she know something that they want or need? Bethany becomes involved in the fight between The Garden and the Wilderness.  Does she have anyone to turn to?  Her best friend and her ex-boyfriend are dead.  Where does she go now? She is trying to come to terms with her beliefs and her own character. She heads first to Chicago.  What happens next is in your hands.  The book goes against the norm for fiction.  There is a distinct point of view, between past and present. I didn't quite understand why but it didn't change the way I felt about reading the book. If you are interested in fast paced, mystery, and conflict you will definitely like this book. It may make you step back and reflect on your own beliefs.
I would give this book 4 STARS.

I was given a complimentary copy of THE CHURCH BUILDER from the author A.L.Shields for my uncompensated review.

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A. L. Shields is a pseudonym for Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught for thirty years. He is also the author of seven acclaimed works of nonfiction and five bestselling novels. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park (2002), spent eleven weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. His most recent novel, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, was published in July of 2012.

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