I’ve read this book so many times I’ve practically memorized it. Strong characters, taut action scenes, and a thoughtful look at the Middle East make for a great Christian suspense story without excessive violence. Bunn’s award-winning style comes through in a riveting plot and a good window into the political and religious tensions of Iran and Iraq. I learned more about Middle Eastern culture from this book than I ever did from textbooks. The setting comes alive through the different characters’ experiences, whether it’s Marc and his team on a recon in the desert or Sameh and his family in their loving home.
Marc is my favorite, because I’m a sucker for a good espionage agent hero who can take out the bad guys one at a time or en masse and gets riled at the thought of kids being in danger. But Sameh is an excellent counterpart, and Josh is exactly the kind of lone-wolf second-in-command that makes for great mission-team dynamics—the type of character that formed my inspiration for Alec in Preacher on the Run.
Aside from all the espionage and good guys vs. bad guys, this story presents a great picture of how Christ unites believers from all backgrounds. It may not be extremely deep theologically, but both main characters are men of the faith and rely on that (or wrestle with it) in the situations they face. I appreciate that Bunn avoided painting with a broad brush—there are Muslims who are terrorists but also Muslims who aren’t; there are Americans who want to do the right thing and Americans who don’t. But at the same time, the lines of good and evil are clearly drawn. I love the thread of underground churches and dedicated missionaries that forms the basis of the plot, but I also love the daring maneuvers and fast-moving action sequences. The narrative style, as is typical of Davis Bunn, can tend toward dramatic, but it shapes the story into an engaging tale with plenty of good vs. evil. I go back to Lion of Babylon whenever I want a great story I can enjoy without reservation.