The Church Builder, The Church Builder Series #1   -     By: A.L. Shields
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The Church Builder, The Church Builder Series #1

Zondervan / 2013 / Hardcover

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Product Description

Harry Stean is an architect who designs traditional church buildings and cathedrals around the world. A former believer but now an agnostic, he is also an expert on the historical use of symbols in Christianity; that special knowledge is the key to each of the stories.

Each of the novels revolves around a centuries-old struggle between believers and a shadowy organization known simply as The Garden, which has devoted itself, working entirely in secret, to the destruction of the faith. Manipulating events from behind the scenes, the Garden has devoted itself patiently over the centuries to what it calls "snakebites"---causing tiny scandals here and there, enough to shake people's faith just a little, hoping, as time passes, that the cumulative effect of its work will bring an end to belief.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 400
Vendor: Zondervan
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0310332117
ISBN-13: 9780310332114
Availability: In Stock
Series: The Church Builder

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Publisher's Description

One group focused on destroying all religion.

One group struggling to preserve the church.

One woman searching for the truth.

For two months, small-town lawyer Bethany Barclay had been mourning the hit-and-run death of her enigmatic best friend, Annabelle Seaver. Then the son of her wealthiest client is found murdered in her kitchen. When Bethany herself becomes the leading suspect, she must flee both the authorities and a mysterious killer.

But there is more at stake than she knows.

Bethany is caught in the web of a shadowy organization determined to destroy Christianity. The final outcome rests on her ability to piece together the last three months of her best friend’s life.

Author Bio

A. L. Shields is a pseudonym for Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught for thirty years. He is also the author of seven acclaimed works of nonfiction and five best-selling novels. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park (2002), spent eleven weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

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  1. Summerfield, FL
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    December 25, 2013
    debwilson
    Summerfield, FL
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This review was written for The Church Builder, Church Builder Series #1.
    From A. L. Shields---pseudonym for New York Times best-selling author Stephen L. Carter---comes a thrilling new series about a secret war between the forces of faith and those who would destroy it.

    In the first volume, small-town lawyer Bethany Barclay, struggling to piece together the final months of her best friend's life, becomes the pawn of both sides. One group focused on destroying all religion. One group struggling to preserve the church. One woman searching for the truth. The evidence is against her. The FBI is right behind her. A malevolent killer has her in his sights. And as Bethany digs deeper into a complex web of lies surrounding her ties to the murder of her client's son, she remains unaware of the real battle in front of her. She thinks her friend Annabelle was killed because of what she learned about a rumored first-century Christian artifact. What Bethany doesn't know is that Annabelle died in the crossfire between two shadowy organizations that have been doing battle for centuries.

    The Wilderness, wealthy and vast, is dedicated to the destruction of all religious faith. The Garden, a group of seven members led by a man they call the Builder, carries on a grim, secret struggle to protect the church. Only a few in the Garden realize that there's more at stake than the artifact the Wilderness is seeking. But as Bethany discovers that she's a tiny part of a larger war, can she trust the Builder to save her? Or will he sacrifice her for the sake of the cause?

    My Review:

    This can definitely be classified as a religious thriller. That said, this was a stay up all night sort of book. The mystery surrounding the Wilderness and the Garden was an intriguing plot, and the characters were constantly moving. Both sides are invariably clashing heads over their differences in opinion, but as Bethany discovers there is more at stake than a simple rumor over a first-century Christian artifact and the death of her friend, Annabelle.

    Bethany's struggles with being tied to both sides of the conflict was actually really interesting for me, because she was invariably playing both sides. But with knowledge comes responsibility, and once she knows the truth there is a heavy price to pay. The crossroads between whether to obey or sacrifice was a hard one, but in the end she makes the only decision she feels is right. A recommended read if you are able to stay up till the last page - as this is a page-turner in ever sense of the word.

    This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
  2. Summerfield, FL
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    December 20, 2013
    debwilson
    Summerfield, FL
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This review was written for The Church Builder - eBook.
    From A. L. Shields---pseudonym for New York Times best-selling author Stephen L. Carter---comes a thrilling new series about a secret war between the forces of faith and those who would destroy it.

    In the first volume, small-town lawyer Bethany Barclay, struggling to piece together the final months of her best friend's life, becomes the pawn of both sides. One group focused on destroying all religion. One group struggling to preserve the church. One woman searching for the truth. The evidence is against her. The FBI is right behind her. A malevolent killer has her in his sights. And as Bethany digs deeper into a complex web of lies surrounding her ties to the murder of her client's son, she remains unaware of the real battle in front of her. She thinks her friend Annabelle was killed because of what she learned about a rumored first-century Christian artifact. What Bethany doesn't know is that Annabelle died in the crossfire between two shadowy organizations that have been doing battle for centuries.

    The Wilderness, wealthy and vast, is dedicated to the destruction of all religious faith. The Garden, a group of seven members led by a man they call the Builder, carries on a grim, secret struggle to protect the church. Only a few in the Garden realize that there's more at stake than the artifact the Wilderness is seeking. But as Bethany discovers that she's a tiny part of a larger war, can she trust the Builder to save her? Or will he sacrifice her for the sake of the cause?

    My Review:

    This can definitely be classified as a religious thriller. That said, this was a stay up all night sort of book. The mystery surrounding the Wilderness and the Garden was an intriguing plot, and the characters were constantly moving. Both sides are invariably clashing heads over their differences in opinion, but as Bethany discovers there is more at stake than a simple rumor over a first-century Christian artifact and the death of her friend, Annabelle.

    Bethany's struggles with being tied to both sides of the conflict was actually really interesting for me, because she was invariably playing both sides. But with knowledge comes responsibility, and once she knows the truth there is a heavy price to pay. The crossroads between whether to obey or sacrifice was a hard one, but in the end she makes the only decision she feels is right. A recommended read if you are able to stay up till the last page - as this is a page-turner in ever sense of the word.

    This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
  3. New Zealand
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Good start to series
    November 19, 2013
    Iola
    New Zealand
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Six months ago, Bethany Barclay's best friend was murdered. Now Bethany comes home to find the body of her ex-boyfriend on her floor, her gun on the floor, and a strange symbol painted on the wall—a symbol that reminds her of something Annabelle said before she died. Are the two deaths related? Bethany believes so, but the police are convinced she's responsible for Ken's death. She goes on the run to try and find the link between the two murders, but things get harder when she's implicated in a bombing as well.

    It's quickly apparent hat Bethany has been set up. It's also apparent that there is more than one group of people after her. What isn't immediately not clear is why. What does she know? And who can she trust? Her search leads her first to Chicago, The World Foundation for the Fulfilment of God's Personal Plan and Martin Potus, another ex-boyfriend who is now leader of God's Planners, a possible cult.

    The Church Builder is the first novel in what promised to be an exciting series from AL Shields (better known as Stephen L Carter, Professor of Law at Yale). It's tightly-plotted with two secret societies fighting for opposing sides in a religious battle, a range of ambiguous characters (it's hard to tell who is good and who Bethany needs to be suspicious of) and a fast pace that sometimes makes it even more difficult to keep the characters straight—not to mention their loyalties.

    The Church Builder disobeys several 'laws' of modern fiction with its distant POV, switching between past and present tense for no apparent reason and an over-reliance on telling (especially at the beginning), but somehow it works, for me at least (even though my mind says it shouldn't). It's the first book in a series, and while the central plot of this book was resolved, the ending also serves as the introduction to the central conflict in the next book.

    Recommended for those who like fast-paced thrillers and don't mind reading a serial.

    Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
  4. Indiana
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    November 18, 2013
    lcjohnson1988
    Indiana
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Bethany Barclay is a lone lawyer, practicing in a small town in Virginia. She has some family she sees fairly regularly and her mentor, a former judge, with whom she also stays in touch with regularly. Her best friend, Annabelle Seaver, is to put it nicely_flaky. Bethany really has no other social contacts. Annabelle enters her life sporadically on Annabelle's time table, which is never predictable. Then Annabelle winds up dead. At first, Annabelle's death is written off by authorities as an accident, but Bethany soon discovers that is not true. As Bethany returns home from Annabelle's funeral, she faces a most unpleasant discovery. She is forced to join the nonpublicized battle of believers versus nonbelievers in God.

    Bethany talks with her friend, Judge Harrigan, about Annabelle's death. The judge, unbeknownst to Bethany, subtlety manipulates Bethany into retracing Annabelle's steps before her death to discover what or why she might have known that could have caused her death. Bethany starts searching and becomes the target of two specific organizations, the Wilderness and the Garden, or are there others after her too? These people play for keeps and are not above using deception, manipulation, threats and for some even death. Bethany is also on the run from law enforcement as she is being framed for murder and terrorist acts. She must use all her wits to stay out of everyone's grasp to find answers, but who can she really trust? There is so much more at stake that Bethany is unaware of, but begins to understand. She is strong, courageous, resourceful and tenacious.

    This is a great suspense story with an intricate plot and curves thrown in that readers won't see coming. The story begins slowly, but please keep reading because it is truly worth reading. After about the first third of the book, I couldn't read fast enough. All thoughts of household chores were put on hold to continue this exciting adventure. I wouldn't want the rest of this story to go untold. I liked how the Scriptures Bethany memorized as a child came to mind when she needed them most and comforted her. The ending of this book leaves off on a cliffhanger, so there has got to be a second book in the works. At least I sure hope so! I can't wait for the next book!!
  5. Irvine, CA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A High Adventure Action Thriller
    October 26, 2013
    VicsMediaRoom
    Irvine, CA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    A. L. Shields in his new book, "The Church Builder" Book One in The Church Builder series published by Thomas Nelson introduces us to Bethany Barclay.

    From the back cover: One group focused on destroying all religion. One group struggling to preserve the church. One woman searching for the truth.

    The evidence is against her. The FBI is right behind her. A malevolent killer has her in his sights. And as Bethany digs deeper into a complex web of lies surrounding her ties to the murder of her client's son, she remains unaware of the real battle in front of her.

    She thinks her friend Annabelle was killed because of what she learned about a rumored first-century Christian artifact. What Bethany doesn't know is that Annabelle died in the crossfire between two shadowy organizations that have been doing battle for centuries. The Wilderness, wealthy and vast, is dedicated to the destruction of all religious faith. The Garden, a group of seven members led by a man they call the Builder, carries on a grim, secret struggle to protect the church.

    Only a few in the Garden realize that there's more at stake than the artifact the Wilderness is seeking. But as Bethany discovers that she's a tiny part of a larger war, can she trust the Builder to save her? Or will he sacrifice her for the sake of the cause?

    Bethany Barclay is an attorney and the death of her friend, Annabelle, bothers her so she sets out to check into it. That is when Bethany becomes a target. There are two factions in the world: the Garden and the Wilderness. The Garden guards people's religious freedom, The Wilderness wants a world based on reason, and will undermine faith any way they can. Bethany is framed for murder and is on the run, not only from the FBI but from assassins from The Wilderness. "The Church Builder" is a thriller, which simply means that everyone is in grave danger from, practically, the beginning. Mr. Shields has given us a really complex mystery and sections of story that will chill you. "The Church Builder" is full of twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in just to cause confusion. Bethany is a warm and likable character and we get engaged in her life. This is an exciting book, extremely well paced and suspenseful. I am so looking forward to the next book in this series.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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