It Takes a Cult Leader to Kill a Cult
He calls himself Christopher Wren, but that’s not his real name. It’s not entirely clear that he has a real name. He grew up in an apocalyptic cult before becoming its sole survivor. As an agent for the Department of Homeland Security, he helped dismantle other dangerous cults. But what cost him that job was the one thing he didn’t tell his bosses. Cults are what he knows, so while he was taking them apart for the DHS, he was building his own on the side.
Wren’s “Foundation” is a group of people from all walks of life with one thing in common. Wren found them at a vulnerable moment, got into their heads, and spun them off whatever dark path they were on. Now they’re his backup. He has people scattered all over the country with skills ranging from the academic to the criminal, ready to come to his aid at a moment’s notice. He’s going to need them.
When he stumbles across a human trafficking organization powerful enough to wipe out a whole small-town police department, Wren tries to warn DHS. But his former bosses think he’s responsible, and Wren’s soon on the run from the full weight of federal law enforcement.
On one side is a huge government manhunt. On the other is a charismatic, psychotic cult leader rounding up the homeless by the hundreds and brainwashing them into an army for an apocalyptic race war. In the middle stands Christopher Wren with his scattered followers, trying to prevent Armageddon. Either side is too powerful to meet with force. But Wren’s particular style of psychological judo just might be what it takes to set the two against each other…if he can stay alive long enough.
An Action Thriller That Knows Action Isn’t Always the Answer
Christopher Wren is, to say the least, an unusual addition to the gallery of action-adventure heroes, and Saint Justice is an unusual book. It might not be for everybody, but its different spin on the genre takes it in some intriguing directions, and author Mike Grist mines that territory for all it’s worth.
That’s not to say that Saint Justice doesn’t deliver on the action. It does. The book is packed with fights, gun battles, chases, and narrow escapes, with Wren always on the brink of catastrophe. But Wren’s greatest asset is his ability to read people, to see what they’re hiding, seek out the cracks in their psychological armor, and disarm them with a well-aimed sentence. One of Saint Justice’s most gripping sequences plays out with Wren tied naked to a table. His battle with the book’s villain is a duel of words and will that’s as tense as any action scene.
Grist is a skilled writer, and he’s put in the effort to make Wren a complex, deeply flawed character who can still strive for heroism and redemption. Wren is so damaged that he picks fights in biker bars just to get beat up. But then he can turn around and steer one of the bikers into a better alternative to the gang life he’s been trapped in. The paradox of his Foundation is that Wren really is guiding his followers toward recovery from the traumas and bad choices that put them in his sights to begin with. Even the ones who despise him realize on some level that they need what he’s offering.
Saint Justice can be a dark and intense read at times, maybe too much so for some readers. But it’s an intriguing book that offers up the expected chases and gunfights, then goes past them to really dig deep into its hero. The result is a gripping story that will stay with you well after the last page is turned. The Christopher Wren series is going to be one to watch.
There are three books in the Wren series to date, with the fourth on pre-order and set to come out within about a week (of this writing). I stumbled across the first book purely by accident, but based on this, I’ll definitely be checking out the others.