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The Ambition: A NovelThe Ambition: A Novel by Lee Strobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know Lee Strobel as the journalist who investigated faith and came out with best-sellers The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator. A non-fiction heavyweight, I never thought he’d cross over to fiction.

But with his first major novel, he just made a case for suspense.

The Ambition is a solid suspense thriller: intricate plot, fast-paced narrative. It sets the stage a bit slow, but works up to a gripping climax that resolves (or doesn’t—you decide) without the contrived air that leaves a reader feeling cheated.

No one is immune from ambition, and when you give it a foothold it can take over your life. In The Ambition, meet a power-hungry megachurch pastor, a corrupt judge in a mob murder case, a cynical reporter eager for a scandal, a gambling addict looking for a way out: their paths collide when a secret tape threatens the lives of those who hear it.

The Ambition is equal parts suspense and introspection. Questions on ambition and faith flow naturally from the characters, and nudge you to consider your own life pursuits from the perspective of eternity.

What is commendable in The Ambition is that it doesn’t use (or abuse) the storyline to preach a sermon. Many times, Christian authors sacrifice literary quality for the message, cramming Scripture and prayer into dialog, overdosing on church-y allusions. But who says you can’t have both? And artfully, too.

In The Ambition, the faith prompts feel more genuine and naturally called for in the moment, not just planted every few pages or so to make sure you get the message.

But the book could use some editing for tightness. Too many detailed descriptions bog down the narrative, such as character gestures inserted in between dialog or long drawn-out backgrounders.

The main characters are well-formed, but the supporting cast needs to be trimmed. Many are introduced once, only to be brought up again chapters later, making your mind scramble to put a face to the name.

If you like suspense thrillers and authors such as John Grisham, you’ll love The Ambition. Strobel has dished out a deliciously entertaining read with a side of interesting food for thought.

Review originally posted on The Christian Manifesto.