The Power of Our Own Dark Side: Steven James’ “The Pawn”


Gruesome murders.  Bloody crime scenes.  Cold-blooded killers with a thirst for revenge.  Probably not what you would expect from the world of Christian Fiction, and yet walk into your local Christian bookstore and there you’ll find it: the Bowers Case Files series by Steven James.

Beginning with The Pawn, these books introduce readers to Patrick Bowers, an FBI agent who specializes in environmental criminology.  Gaining clues from the time and location of a crime, he is able to predict where and when terror might strike next.  Bowers is also mourning the recent loss of his wife and fighting desperately to mend the relationship with his estranged daughter, Tessa (a teenager into Goth who has a knack for getting herself into serious trouble). Patrick Bowers finds himself in the darkest corners of human existence, and struggles daily with the dark side within his own soul.  He realizes that the killers he hunts are not that different from himself, and that there are times when even he is tempted to do the unthinkable.

This sets the stage for one nail-biting thrill-ride after another.  Readers will be on the furthest edge of their seats as they devour this book, and will also feel cold chills when faced with the truly dark acts that human beings are capable of.

If you’re looking for an obvious Christian message, you won’t find it here.  Instead, James deals with the darkest issues of the human heart, and in a subtle and almost invisible way, he allows the shimmering thread of hope offered by the Gospel to creep in and make itself known.

Inescapable Darkness

One thing The Pawn does in a superb way is drive home the fact that every human being has a dark side.  Sin and evil are something no human being can escape – it is an inevitable part of the human condition – and each of us are only one step away from committing a heinous crime.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” – Genesis 6:5

“There is none righteous, no not one.” – Romans 3:10

Faint Glimmer of Hope

In spite of the overwhelming darkness he faces, Agent Bowers does find reason to hope.  He is continually encouraged by the faith his wife showed, even in the jaws of death.  Every once in a while his daughter’s rough exterior will crack and they share a golden moment.  And each time he wills himself to make the right choice instead of the wrong one, he is reminded that he doesn’t have to let the darkness overtake him: he has a choice.

“All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape.” – I Corinthians 10:13

The Pawn: It’s Your Move

If you’re looking for an exciting action thriller that leaves room for hope, you can give The Pawn a try.  But I will warn you – these books are a lot like potato chips:  you really can’t read just one.

Find out for yourself why Publisher’s Weekly describes Steven James as a “master storyteller at the peak of his game.”


Christian Reader Rating:   PG  (for graphic descriptions of murder and violence)


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