- Hardcover: 373 pages
- Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (May 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786214120
- ISBN-13: 978-0786214129
- Product Dimensions: 22.3 x 14.6 x 3.1 cm
"Imperial Intrigue" is the second volume in the series, and describes Katy and Sam's new assignment in protecting an Austrian prince and princess who are settling down on a ranch in the American West. Katy soon shares in the struggles faced by the foreign royal party: adjusting to ranch life, befriending the ranch family, facing the murderous attempts of a greedy neighbouring rancher to take over the property, and avoiding death at the hands of a skilled assassin.
What NOT to expect:
1. Solid theology and a thought provoking message.
Typical of much evangelical thinking, this book offers only shallow theology. Typical are the ideas that heaven will be "enriched" by a wonderful Christian ("Tracks of Deceit" p.45), a false contrast between an Old Testament God of justice and the New Testament God of love (p.129), the idea that it is entirely wrong to judge someone even from their lifestyle (p.195), the pop-psychology assessment that an evil self-centred life is not really sin but rather indicative of being "seriously sick...insane." (p.216), the secular notion that Christians must learn to love themselves more ("Imperial Intrigue" p.178), and that it is possible for an unbeliever to be "basically a good person." Despite the fall into sin, the authors have rather too much faith in human nature, which is probably not surprising considering their Arminian theology (p.50,142). Such shallow thinking is evident throughout, and results in a grinding down of the gospel of Christ into a super-sweet sugar coating and sprinkling it over the story-line. Also of concern is the Biblical thinking that is missing from these books. Instead of focussing on the "unseen" heavenly promises, the authors focus with nauseating regularity on the "seen" qualities of physical beauty and physical attraction ("Tracks of Deceit" p.76,164, "Imperial Intrigue" p.32,47). When this secular focus was combined with a liberal dose of sappy romance ("Tracks of Deceit" p.125, "Imperial Intrigue" p.81) where characters habitually wind up kissing at their first meeting or soon afterwards, at times I could hardly believe I was reading a Christian book.
2. Strong characterization.
Katy herself is rather one-dimensional. While barely shedding a tear over her father's death, she immediately goes off to play detective and find his murderer. Although the characterization does improve in "Imperial Intrigue" (especially the attention devoted to the internal relationships of the ranch family), on the whole the characterization leaves much to be desired. Even the unbelieving "good guys" are surprisingly unselfish or else become Christian at the tip of a hat, whereas the "bad guys" have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and are nearly always presented as "human monsters" that are always evil all the time.
3. A surprising and unpredictable plot.
The authors left so many clues that one of the surprising plot twists at the end of "Tracks of Deceit" came as no surprise whatsoever, but was instead entirely expected. When there are surprises, in both books they are frequently the result of most remarkable coincidences that are hardly credible, and thus hardly satisfying. Although "Imperial Intrigue" was certainly more credible and convincing than "Tracks of Deceit", weaknesses are still evident - among them an incident where the authors resort to having one of the characters have an unexplained urge to visit a grave in the middle of the night (p.195) in order to get three of the characters out of the house. Oh please!
What to expect:
1. Lots of action, intrigue and murder.
There is constant riveting action and intrigue, as Katy tumbles from one hair-raising situation to another. There is action aplenty, and by the end of the "Tracks of Deceit" there are several corpses, gun battles, kidnappings and sabotage. "Imperial Intrigue" also features constant action and intrigue, and probably even surpasses the effort of the first book. Despite the lack of realism at times, it is really the story-line that gives these books any measure of success.
2. An informative historical picture.
Despite the presence of a few questionable anachronisms (such as Katy's strong anti-discrimination and pro-feminist sentiments, as well as the frequent portrayal of minority groups as Christian), both books give interesting historical information without being tedious. "Tracks of Deceit" passes on many interesting and accurate historical details about the construction of the transcontinental railroad project - without allowing the novel to degenerate into a history lecture. Especially the conflict between two rival railway construction companies and the conflict between the Irish and the Chinese laborers is finely portrayed. Similarly, "Imperial Intrigue" gives a fascinating portrait of the prairie setting, and the trials and triumphs of ranch life.
In short, if you are willing to overlook the over-sweetened sugar-coating of shallow soap opera theology, you can enjoy these books as mediocre mysteries. But at best, these books offer little more than a so-so story-line, shoddily dressed in a rather poor-quality garment of thin Christian content.
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