In THE GUARDIANS, award-winning historical novelist Jack Cavanaugh concludes his American Family Portrait series with a contemporary tale brimming with plenty of action. Although the book is touted as readable as a stand-alone, you’ll want to peruse the series first to get the full flavor of this story.
The series revolves around the fabled Morgan family Bible, which has been handed down from generation to generation since book one, THE PURITANS. This time the Bible is in the possession of Ethan, the oldest twin and a police officer who is fighting demons from his past. His younger twin brother Andrew, a graphic novelist, seems to have it all together. Then Andrew walks into a trap meant for his brother --- and it costs him his life. The killer, knowing of the half-million-dollar value of the 400-year-old Morgan family Bible, makes off with it after the murder.
Ethan sets out to find his brother’s killer and the family heirloom; in the process, he gets tangled up with more than he bargained for. F. Malory Simon, a wealthy motivational speaker, author and owner of the Nevada Outlaws NFL football expansion team, is out to eliminate as many symbols of Christianity as possible. He lives by the motto “Cut the root and the flower dies,” and he wants to see Christianity perish. Among his targets are valuable, historical Bibles that he enjoys shredding. Will the Morgan Bible be next? He also wants to eliminate notable churches and cathedrals, and if Ethan and Meredith aren’t careful, they’ll end up being eliminated with the buildings by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Meredith (who is completely obsessed with the Morgan heritage) and Ethan embark on a journey overseas and then back to the United States, revisiting places that have shaped the Morgan family’s story. As they travel together, it’s not long before Meredith shares a secret with Ethan about her relationship with Andrew that will change them both.
Although Cavanaugh has crafted an interesting series, there are a few rough spots in this concluding novel. Some of the dialogue seems unbelievably insensitive, such as an officer who asks Ethan if he has slept with his sister-in-law even as Ethan’s brother lies dead on the floor. Ethan also lacks the expected grief during the police’s survey of the crime scene immediately after his brother’s death. Another man jokes with him at the funeral reception about Ethan’s resemblance to his dead brother, saying “Hallelujah! Andrew’s raised from the grave!” Olivia, Andrew’s mother-in-law, corners Ethan at the same funeral reception and berates him about his lack of romantic prospects. These unbelievable moments detract from the rest of the story.
But fans of adventure and action won’t mind --- they’ll be focused on the recovery of the Bible and the attempt to thwart the plot of the evil Simon. Eventually, the Bible ends up as the focus of a live Internet event in Boston, ready to be shredded, and it appears that the Morgan family Bible has seen its last generation. Will Meredith and Ethan be able to save the Bible from certain destruction? Fans of the American Family Portrait series will enjoy discovering the answers.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on February 1, 2008