Reviewed by Eric Wilson
The Bell Messenger
by Robert Cornuke & Alton Gansky
"Gansky's tight writing and fast-paced style mix well with Cornuke's background in history and biblical archaeology, creating a fascinating tale."
For years, I've been an Alton Gansky fan. He mixes great imagination with biblically-based stories that rarely feel preachy. As a newcomer to the work of Robert Cornuke, I opened this novel with some reticence, fearing Gansky's name might be the selling tool for an otherwise inferior work.
To my surprise, the story drew me in immediately. Gansky's tight writing and fast-paced style mix well with Cornuke's background in history and biblical archaeology, creating a fascinating tale. Using a Civil War Bible as the thread that ties numerous lives and decades together, the story moves from American battlefields to Egyptian pyramids to the Western Front of the First World War. Although some of the threads don't leave us much time to become emotionally invested in the characters, each section is nicely wrought and delivered with detailed authenticity. The sections in San Francisco receive the most time and, therefore, touched me the most deeply.
As the story and its multiple mysteries come to a close, all the threads are tied off tidily--almost to a fault. The coincidences between the overlapping lives begin to stretch credulity, yet I was willing to keep with it due to the authors' obvious research. In the end, it is a satisfying tale, particularly for those who like their Christian fiction to wrap up with a moral lesson.
One of Gansky's more recent novels ("Angel") seemed to become an extended sermon at the end, and "The Bell Messenger" also follows that formula for success in the Christian market. For me, the pedantic approach robs a very good story of some of its power, hitting me over the head with its truths rather than letting them simmer in my heart and mind. Nevertheless, it's a well-told tale and a valuable lesson.
Eric Wilson is the author of twelve novels that explore Earth's tension between heaven and hell, the latest of which is One Step Away, a twist on the story of Job. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two daughters. Visit him online at his website.