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Angels of Interstate 29: 04/02/09

Angels of Interstate 29 by Donald James Parker is a Christian fiction romance that can't quite figure out what genre it belongs in or what story it's trying to tell. There are three competing stories: the car thieves looking for revenge, Tex's desire to do something good for Sioux Falls in his retirement from the force, and the romance between Lizzy and Tex. All three of these plots in the end get tossed aside for a deus ex machina of biblical proportions.

Tex Harris and his Angels of I29 plan was my favorite part of the book. He reminds me of my own grandfather who has been volunteering nearly every day of his life since he retired. He'll be 90 in about six weeks and he's still volunteering. With him in mind, Tex rings true to me.

The banter Tex has with his close group of friends also has some endearing moments. They share jokes and pop cultural references from their youth all the way to modern times, sometimes smoothly and sometimes awkwardly. Early on there is a very funny running joke from The Music Man, one of my favorite musicals. Unfortunately, a little banter goes a long way and the dialog in this novel tends to run on at the expense of setting, plot development and internal monolog.

It is through the lengthy dialog that the novel goes from being a romantic thriller with mature characters to being a blatant Christian novel. Lizzy begins by asking Tex about his religious beliefs and he believably dances around giving an answer but she persists. Her long passages on God and scripture completely break the flow of the story. To force everything to stick together in a tidy conclusion the main characters end up being held hostage only to be saved by the act of prayer. Unfortunately for Tex to be "saved" both literally and spiritually he has to have a complete change of character. I just don't buy Tex's tragic past or his sudden change of heart. People don't change like that under duress; if anything, they become more stubborn.

Although Christian fiction isn't one of the main genres I read, I do occasionally enjoy a book in the genre. I have a certain weakness for Richard Paul Evans. I wanted to like Angels of Interstate 29 more than I did. With less dialog and a more subtle hand with the religious message, this book could have been a charming romance.

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