Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)
Diann Mills’ latest novel – Fatal Strike – is a mixed bag that has some good and some bad moments. The strongest part of the novel is the storyline, the weakest part is the character development, and the creativity/originality is average. Leah Riesel, an FBI agent/sniper, is committed to her work and content to live a solitary life when she’s not working. Leah has few close friends, has mixed feelings about God, and continually feels guilt and regret about events in her past. After completing routine sniper work as part of a hostage situation, Leah is unexpectedly given a big assignment with a partner she barely knows. Jon Colbert is an experienced sniper who is confident in his abilities and prefers the comfort zone of work to the unpredictability of relationships. Jon feels guilty about the tragic death of his mentor and is reluctant to form new long-term relationships because he fears loss. When Leah and Jon are forced to work together to solve a string of mysterious gang-related murders, their insecurities and strengths will be tested. As their list of suspects grows and people continue to die, Leah and Jon will have to face their fears and be honest about their feelings for each other if they want to solve the case. On the whole, the plot holds the attention all the way through and the storyline contains some interesting twists and turns. Additionally, Mills does a pretty good job of concealing the villian until the end of the story and throws in a few unexpected puzzle pieces along the way. In comparison, the worst part of the novel is the way one character goes against procedure by being involved in a case that concerns people he knew personally. In the real world, an FBI agent (or otherwise) is not allowed to be involved in cases that are connected to their personal life. Furthermore, sensationalism sometimes replaces depth as the story goes on – lots of action scenes rather than compelling dialogue sequences. Therefore, Mills rounds out with an average score in this section.
Character Development (1.5 points)
In contrast, these characters could use some work. In High Treason, Mills crafted characters that stood out from those in other suspense novels for being very relatable and having identities outside of their jobs. Unfortunately, these characters do the exact opposite. It was a good idea to build characters around events in the past and the present, but the best characters in this genre have an identity outside of their role in the storyline. Leah has several good moments as a character, but it is hard to get to know her in-between action scenes and a semi-forced romance with Jon – we hear about what she does and who she likes, rather than see her develop over time. Jon also has some good moments, but he is given little to no identity outside of his career choice. In comparison, several of the secondary characters are very good and their stories have more meaning than the rest of the plot, but it is hard to keep up with them in the midst of everything else. Likewise, this would have been a very interesting suspense novel if it was written from the perspective of the suspects. (spoiler) For instance, Dylan, Sylvia, and Rachel’s interconnected stories would have made them great protagonists. Thus, because the errors here outweigh the potential, Mills receives a below average score in character development.
Creativity & Originality (.5 point)
Finally, Mills receives a half point in creativity for her unique secondary characters. Additionally, despite it’s many flaws, Fatal Strike does have potential to be an interesting Christian suspense film. First, the screenwriter would need to restructure the plot so that Leah and Jon become minor characters and Dylan, Sylvia, and Rachel become the protagonists. Lastly, many of the action scenes would need to be replaced with dialogue sequences between the new protagonists. In conclusion, this novel could be a breakthrough Christian movie if it gave non-white people and former criminals a voice and identity outside of social labels.
Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points