Review: Enemies of the Cross

Things were not going well for Jeff Weldon. His brother had been taken from him, his church was losing its good name and, with it, all sorts of congregants. Being the pastor, he was also losing all sorts of income. And he was pretty sure the powers of darkness were, if not stalking the town, hanging around it somewhere. He wanted to fix it. Where to start?

With garage sales. Baby showers. Helping people move. If such a litany of good deeds seems that it would hardly help – it didn’t. Jeff moved on to other deeds, many of them not so good.

Enemies of the Cross is the second act of The Coming Evil Trilogy, written by Greg Mitchell. In The Strange Man, the first book, we saw evil invade Greensboro; in the second book, we see the range of its conquest. And if you think the question, when the Strange Man arrives, is whether you’ll be able to hang on to your town, you’ll find that the vital issue is whether you’ll be able to hang on to your soul.

Enemies of the Cross has a mystery feel to it that the first book did not. The writing is also tighter and more disciplined. Unfortunately, the book has less considerably less humor than its precursor. This is due partly to its more somber mood, but largely, I think, to the removal of Dras.

Dras was my favorite character in the first book, and I missed him in the second. I found him a more charming protagonist than Jeff, and he brought a lot more humor. Still, for the type of story Enemies of the Cross was supposed to be, I think Dras’ absence was a good thing. Greg Mitchell used it effectively.

Though Dras is gone, most of the old cast is still present. Mitchell added new dimension to nearly all of them. Jeff’s slippery slope was well-done, particularly because it wasn’t straight down. There is moral truth in how he slipped down, struggled up a few feet, and then slipped down farther. Some new characters emerge – one of whom became the novel’s unexpected triumph. His way to redemption felt fresh and real, and it moved me.

The religious element is strong in this book. It defines the conflict and directs the characters’ journeys. It’s to the author’s credit that the Christianity is neither obligatory nor extraneous – as it is to his credit that he was not too self-conscious to include it.

Enemies of the Cross is an intense book – perhaps, in a few moments, too intense. The story takes unexpected turns and the characters are vividly realized. And, in the intensity, there are yet touching moments, and light breaks the darkness.