Virtuous Spy Thrillers? Really!
I love mysteries and spy thrillers because I have insomnia. Seriously. I have to read something exciting enough to keep me from thinking about life long enough to fall asleep. That’s challenging for a Christian because the exciting genres are usually full of sleaze. Let’s face it, murders don’t often happen in nice families! And, as Dorothy Sayers once explained, the life and death stakes in a murder investigation adds needed tension to the puzzle.
That’s why I was excited to receive a copy of Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey’s newest book, Chasing Mona Lisa, and its predecessor, The Swiss Courier. Tricia is a Christian and homeschool mom, so I was hoping her books would hit that high standard we keep hoping for – fast-moving action, good writing, realistic setting, and the hardest of all to judge by what’s out there, godliness. I wasn’t disappointed.
The Swiss Courier begins the story with Gabi Mueller, a Swiss-American working as a cryptologist in the Basel station of the OSS. The safe-cracking skills learned from her locksmith grandfather, though, quickly make her a valuable asset to the intelligence community in the closing years of World War II. With the heartbreak of the plight of the Jews to the nail-biting race for the atomic bomb as a backdrop, Goyer and Yorkey’s characters keep you on the edge of your seat as they risk their lives to rescue a Jewish nuclear scientist and prevent the disaster of a Nazi victory. The plot twists and surprising revelations are just delightful. The best part, though, is that the heroes are believers, real Christians, who did not allow evil to triumph by standing by and doing nothing. How unusual is that these days!
I was concerned about whether they “got” Switzerland — its unique political culture and its glorious countryside, but when I began to recognize foods and sites I flipped to the back and found out, yes, they got it! Mike Yorkey’s wife is Swiss and they lived their for a time, but not only that, they interviewed a lady who’d been a teen during the War in the town where the novel was set. This attention to detail makes it easy to feel like you are right there. I loved it — just like I love Switzerland!
Chasing Mona Lisa begins just shortly after the main action in The Swiss Courier ends and it brings Gabi and her partner in espionage (Sorry, got to keep it a secret to keep from spoiling one of the most delightful twists of The Swiss Courier) to Paris just as the Liberation occurs. Once again, it’s like being dropped in the middle of one of the most exciting events of the last century. The thrill is just beginning when the Nazis flee Paris before the approaching Free French and Allies. The story follows the desperate attempt of the French and Allies to protect the national treasures of the French people during the turbulent days and leadership vacuum after the Liberation.
My guys just love this kind of book and it is hard to find any that are even half-way acceptable. So, can you hand them to your teen sons? Well. we did. Even encouraged them to read them.. There is a very brief scene where a Nazi has someone in his quarters he shouldn’t. It’s discreetly handled and you could even black a line or two if you needed to and it would be beyond question. Emotionally, there’s a rather heart-breaking scene with a Jewish family (hard to avoid in this time period) and a child in danger in another place, though she’s released unscathed. There is a good bit of violence and death, but the books do not glory in it, so it didn’t bother me. There are a few things I might have changed, but compared to most books in this genre, these are squeaky clean!
There is a whole lot to recommend them, too. The father in the story and other male heroes are strong, straight, godly, and active. Lots of virtue on display here, too: discretion, sacrifice, courage, commitment, perception. Evil is indisputably evil and good is, well, good, which is rather unusual – even the best spy fiction today assumes that the end justifies the means. In these books, though, pastors are strong characters and the church is an active, loving body that goes beyond talk. The Word of God is portrayed as a rock to depend on. And best of all, the strong, safe, godly guy gets the girl – and more!
The Swiss Courier and Chasing Mona Lisa are just great fun! Action-packed, great characters, accurate in history and geography, a downright good story — it’s hard to beat. My teens and twenties are lined up to read them! In fact, I couldn’t find either of them to check some details in this review. I think somebody took them off to college… Hey, bring ’em back, son, so your brothers can read them, too! Highly recommended.
You’ve got a great chance to hear Tricia talk about the novel herself, too! She’s having a LIVE video chat with Amanda Bennett and her co-author Mike Yorkey, talking about Amanda’s new Unit Study on France and Chasing Mona Lisa on Monday, February 13th from 7-8:30pm CST. Theyre giving away prizes, too!: http://
The Swiss Courier, Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, Revell, 2009, $13.99. Only $9.99 at CBD!
Chasing Mona Lisa, Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, Revell, 2012 (just released!), $14.99. Only $9.99 at CBD!We received a free copy of these two books in return for our always honest review.