Jack Crittendon’s family has been targeted. An unknown man breaks into their house but steals only some jewellery and a Bible. His wife is almost run off the road by an unknown assailant, and he is accused of possessing child pornography. At the same time, he is investigating the disappearance and possible suicide of a local pastor, Evan McDaniel, whose wife is convinced he is still alive, even though his colleagues appear equally convinced he isn’t. Jack slowly uncovers information that suggests things were not as they first appeared. What follows is a fast-paced action novel as Jack tries to protect his family and solve the mystery of the pastor’s disappearance.
I found Fear Has a Name difficult to get in to. There was a lot happening, and I didn’t find Pam Crittendon to be a compelling character. That might be a little unfair, as she’d just been the victim of a home invasion, so we were seeing her at her worst, but I found her difficult to like or even to empathise with. Jack wasn’t much better, because he seemed to be back and forth between the McDaniel investigation and his own family problems. It seemed that he was the only person investigating the pastor’s disappearance, and while the plotting was solid, it didn’t strike me as realistic that people would give all this information to a reporter rather than the police, and I felt there were times when the McDaniel subplot detracted from the main plot.
However, things improved dramatically around a quarter of the way when we began to get the point of view of the stalker. I’ve read advice to novelists that the antagonist should have a motive, something in his personal history that makes him act the way he does. I read too many novels where the author has taken this advice but it feels to me, as a reader, as though that history has just been tacked on the end and feels more like an excuse than a motivation.
Fear Has a Name was different. By giving us the point of view of the stalker, Mapes has managed to integrate his personal history and give me a real sense of compassion for him, to see him as a real person (albeit one with a difficult background and an inappropriate way of acting on his feelings). This is a real strength in his writing, as is his seamless integration of Christianity. This is Christian fiction, complete with sermons, prayers and a gospel message, but it manages to achieve all this without coming across as preachy.
Fear Has a Name is full of flawed characters who have something in their personal history that causes them to act the way they do, from the stalker to Evan McDaniel to Margaret, Pam’s neurotic mother. Once we see and understand the circumstances that made the people who they are, we are better able to relate and empathise with them, whether they are the ‘goodies’ or not. Recommended. Just not if you’re alone in the house.
Thanks to David C Cook and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Creston Mapes at his website.