It was almost a year ago that I had a visitor to my hotel room in the middle of the night; a visitor that was most unwelcome; a visitor from the depths of hell; a visitor from the imagination of Greg Mitchell.
I had flown to Orlando, Florida to visit Charisma Media while my wife was spending a week with her bridge girlfriends on the beach. I arrived late at night and settled into my dark and foreboding hotel room with only a few more pages left of Greg Mitchell’s “The Strange Man”. I finished the book and had that odd mixture of anticipation for the next book and a sense of fulfillment at the satisfying conclusion of a great story. Around two in the morning I awoke in the empty bed, suddenly aware my wife was not with me but somebody was definitely in the room! I glanced at the corner of the room and something moved in the shadows. Instantly, my mind flashed back to the strange man and his “gremlins”. I jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights and made certain the room was truly empty. Then, I said a series of prayers and finally managed to drift off to sleep.
The time has come to pick up the story of “The Strange Man” in book two of the “Coming Evil” trilogy, “Enemies of the Cross”. The latest book by Greg Mitchell picks up right where book one ended. I had scheduled a week off for writing on my fourth book and planned a trip to Austin, Texas to see our son and his wife. My wife and I stayed at Lakeway Resort and Spa on Lake Travis so my wife could have a relaxing “spa” week. I must confess, I did not get much writing done. In fact, I got very little done and it’s all Greg Mitchell’s fault! I started “Enemies of the Cross” and could not put the book down.
Each night, as I relaxed at the end of the day, instead of sitting down in front of my laptop, I picked up “Enemies of the Cross” and read until midnight. Fortunately, my wife was in the room with me and that helped keep the “gremlins” at bay. Now, I don’t want to provide any spoilers. To talk about the book is to give so much away. There are many surprises around each dark, shadowy corner and Greg Mitchell has set the reader up for the final book in the series. So, here are my five conclusions about “Enemies of the Cross”.
First, from page one, the story hits the ground running and never stops. There are pauses here and there for character development and to allow the reader to catch their breath. Once the darkness of the lake takes on a more human persona, the story moves with breathtaking speed. Greg Mitchell has set up one suspenseful scene after another and slowly builds the tension and suspense until I ached with anxiety. In a good way! I can tell that Greg loves a good monster story and the pacing of the action scenes keep the reader in “boo!” mode most of the time.
Second, this book focuses on Jeff Weldon, the brother to Dras, the main character in book one. Jeff is the pastor of the local church and Greg does a masterful job of taking Jeff down the slow and grinding pathway to self destruction. Jeff’s obsession with his brother’s fate endangers his church, his marriage, and ultimately, his life. Just as Stephen King took his main character in “The Shining” down the long, dark hallway to the nether regions of madness and violence, so does Greg take Jeff down, down, down into the basement of sin and fury and anger and self revulsion. But, along the way, Jeff has moments of redemption and moments of enlightenment and even manages to share the Gospel with a wayward soul Jeff has drafted into his cause. Does Jeff ultimately meet his doom? Or, does he find redemption? You’ll have to read the book to see what happens in the final conflict between Jeff and “the strange man”.
Third, Greg does so such a masterful job of creating monstrous creatures that pop off the page. He has a fine and delicate balance between describing the creature and leaving enough to the reader’s imagination. I had recently watched John Carpenter’s “The Thing” from 1982 and then the new “The Thing” that came out last fall. Greg Mitchell’s monstrous creations were every bit as terrifying as the images in those movies mostly because of my imagination. Yes, the presence of evil in “Enemies of the Cross” is well depicted and frightening and horrifying. But, the reader shouldn’t let that deter them from reading the book. Just read it with the lights on!
Fourth, “Enemies of the Cross” fills in some of the gaps in the story from the first book. Greg Mitchell left many of the details behind the history of Greensboro out of the first book, I am sure on purpose. He hinted that there was a power behind the sudden appearance of “the strange man” in the first book. In “Enemies of the Cross” Greg brings into the light, the secretive, power hungry entity behind the events that are taking place in Greensboro. He fills in bits and pieces of the history of the town and takes the reader down into the dark places beneath the town where the real evil dwells in service of “the strange man”. The “mythos” is deepened and fleshed out in a very satisfying way.
Fifth, “Enemies of the Cross” shows the corruptive power of sin and evil not only in the life of Jeff Weldon, but in the life of Rosalyn. Rosalyn was left at the end of the first book with the mystery of why Dras tried to save her. In “Enemies of the Cross”, she is still the focus of the strange man’s obsession and throughout the book, he continues to try to possess her. Does she give in? Does she fall to his seductive ways? You’ll have to read the book and find out.
Finally, I just want to say that the power of love shines through “Enemies of the Cross”. Jeff and his wife, Isabella, become increasingly estranged but their love is a triumphant power over the evil in town. And, ultimately, it is the realization that God is in control, even when things are darkest, that strengthens that love.
I recommend reading “The Strange Man” first, if you haven’t read it and then picking up “Enemies of the Cross” the minute you put the first book down. You will not be disappointed. Greg Mitchell has done a masterful job with his story, his “monsters”, and his devotion to the power of God in all of our lives. Now, I’m waiting anxiously for the “Dark Hour” to fall and to see what happens in the final book in the trilogy.