‘August Origins,’ by Alan Lee

“It’s reverse sexism to pretend girls are never girls and never experience distress. That creates faulty and impossible standards, like magazine covers.”

Pending surprises, I’m pretty much all in on Alan Lee’s Mack August detective series now. And for some of you, that will be a sign of reprobation in me. Because these novels have Christian themes, but they are morally complex and there’s a limited amount of full-blown profanity and obscenity. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to write books like these. But I’m enjoying and appreciating them.

Mackenzie August is a private eye in Roanoke, Virginia. He’s a former cop and underground cage fighter, also a former youth pastor and English teacher. He goes to church and reads the Bible, but is a work in progress, wrestling with how to be a Christian.

In August Origins, the county sheriff comes to Mack’s office, along with a local policeman, to request his help. A new drug boss has moved into town, and the street gangs have adopted a practice imported from California – each new member must “make his bones” by killing an innocent teenaged girl. Three have died so far. They want Mack to go to work temporarily as a high school teacher, to try to figure out who’s running the gangs.

Mack is always up for a challenge. He likes teaching and is good at it. He cares about the kids and tries to help them. But he observes some hinky stuff going on – and then the word spreads among the student population that Mr. August is a nark. His life and those of some of his students will depend on his identifying the drug bosses, and putting a stop to them.

Also he meets a girl who fascinates him – Veronica “Ronnie” Summers, local lawyer and part-time bartender. She’s all he’s ever wanted, but if he wants to be with her, he’ll have to make a moral compromise he’s not willing to make.

There are some shocking elements in August Origins, and the resolution is not very neat at all. But the effect is more realistic than what you’ll generally find in Christian fiction, and that particular story line is not finished yet.

Not for the squeamish, or those offended by profanity. But I rate August Origins very highly.

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