January Justice by Athol Dickson

Mr. Dickson, one of my favorite Christian authors, has this new entry in the genre of detective thriller with a complicated hero in a sticky situation. And there’s no explicit sex, bad language or nastily descriptive violence.

Malcolm, recently released from the mental hospital, recently widowed after the murder of his rich-but-secret wife, and recently unemployed as a result of both events, is trying to pick up the pieces of his life and his job as chauffeur and bodyguard to Hollywood’s celebrities. Then, he gets mixed up in Guatemalan politics and possible terrorism and ghosts from his past come back to haunt him, and it all gets messy and violent and confusing, especially with the drug flashbacks and the females with secrets.

I’m really looking forward to reading the books in this series and finding out more about the tough guy with a good heart, Malcolm Cutter. As a character he reminds me of Michael Westen from the TV series Burn Notice. Westen and Cutter both are rugged, resilient guys, ex-military, with a past that gets in the way of the present. Both men are unsentimental, but they have plenty of ability to love and be loved and a gift for friendship that shows in their interactions with old buddies who become allies. Westen and Cutter have both been cut off from their respective military or para-military professions. Westen is a burned spy; Malcolm Cutter is a court-martialed ex-marine.

However, unlike Michael Westen, who never as far as I know once mentions or thinks about a connection to God or a spiritual dimension to life, Malcolm Cutter needs a spiritual connection to God, something to help him understand what’s real and trustworthy and stable in his life. Malcolm has a friend, Bud Tanner, a chaplain from his old Marine unit, who tells him to cling to something when “the threat of madness” comes to torment Cutter:

“It was Bud who showed me where it says in the Good Book to think about true things. Noble things. Whatever is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. It was Bud who helped me see that such things were always there, even when I could not think of them. They had not died with Haley, and they had never stopped existing, even when I was lost within the chaos in my skull. And because they were always there, because they were external to me and did not rely on me in any for their existence, I could hold on to them, or the idea of them, and in doing that, regain some sense of stability.”

This passage is about as “religious” as the book gets, but it’s enough. Malcolm Cutter has been forced to become aware of his own helplessness and dependency. We think of ourselves as competent, sane people, in control of our own minds and bodies. But really we are only one step away from total vulnerability, insanity, and lostness. And we need a reference point outside ourselves. We need a saviour.

“Without God man has no reference point to define himself. 20th century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.” ~R. C. Sproul

The second and third novels in The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs series, Free Fall in February, and A March Murder, are coming out in 2013.

January Justice: First Look, the first few paragraphs of the novel.

3 thoughts on “January Justice by Athol Dickson

  1. You got me to read River Rising and I liked that one. So I gave this new title a chance but I DID find language in it (and I did not like the cover art) so I set it aside.

  2. I must have missed the bad language. Sometimes my reading brain skims past anything I don’t want to read in the first place.

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