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The Assignment    by Mark Andrew Olsen order for
by Mark Andrew Olsen
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Mix modern suspense with an apocalyptic Christian novel and you get The Assignment. Set in the near future, Olsen's thriller follows a living sign of the end times as he tries to prevent World War III.

The story opens on a secret sect of priests breaking into a hidden Nazi burial chamber to release a man who has been entombed for over half a century. Even though they had no intention to desecrate, radicals take it as such and protest. Throughout the novel, this protest escalates into a hotbed just waiting to break out in war, which is what the 'Destroyer' hopes. The man released from the tomb is the 'Restrainer', hand chosen by God to stop the Destroyer from gaining control over Earth. The Restrainer cannot die until the Destroyer is exorcised from Earth, and when this happens, the Second Coming will be near.

Aside from his two thousand year struggle with the Destroyer, the Restrainer has another mission following his most recent resurrection. His line of prodigy will die out if he does not save the youngest, Nora, a Harvard grad student. His enemy, using Hamas terrorists, attempts to kidnap Nora, but the Restrainer steps in, taking a bullet for the young woman. After hearing of his miraculous recovery at the hospital, Nora traces him back to Paris where she learns both who he is and who she is.

This has everything needed for an engaging suspense story: countries with unstable relations, terrorist groups, secret organizations, an international manhunt, a corrupt leader, mysterious symbols, and plenty of hidden escape routes. What makes the novel Christian is not that the secret organization is an order of priests or that it is a bishop who is corrupt; it is the underlying theme of God's power triumphing over Satan and faith helping those in despair to hold on. Throughout the book, many characters come to question their religious beliefs, when they learn who the Restrainer is.

For the most part, the story moves at a fast pace. However, it is sometimes slowed by entries from the Restrainer's journal. While these provide background and give a feel for past religious conflicts, they tend to be long and rambling. Many could be related in the stories the Restrainer tells Nora. Aside from this caveat, The Assignment is the perfect blend of Christian fiction and suspense, with something for fans of both to enjoy.

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