Investigative reporter Garry Strider is a man with a mission --- to win the Pulitzer. Eric Snow, pastor of a popular Chicago area megachurch, is drifting away from the pulpit and toward a seat in the Illinois Senate. Criminal Court Chief Judge Reese McKelvie has his eye on the same seat and is not above doing whatever it takes to get it. The only one who simply desires healing for his broken soul is gambling addict Tom O'Sullivan, a Chicago defense attorney whose habit has connected him to the reporter, pastor and judge, placing him in the midst of the very corruption he strived to avoid.
When Garry loses the Pulitzer to a reporter who was once his intern, he is determined to uncover a story that will rip through the Windy City like a tornado. His girlfriend's blossoming belief in Christianity and attendance at Diamond Point Church provides a great starting point for the atheist reporter. He blames the church when Gina, despite her love for Garry, moves out of his apartment, prompted by her newfound faith and understanding. She had hoped Garry was seeking the Lord when he accompanied her to church, but discovered that all he sought was to uncover dirt on Diamond Point's senior pastor. When Garry attends a service during which a healing occurs, he's certain he has found the perfect kick-off point for his investigation.
Pastor Snow is not present when the healing occurs and is as surprised as anyone when he receives the news. Hesitating to call it what it is --- a miracle --- he downplays the healing, afraid that it may have a negative effect on his potential Senate appointment. Snow knows the governor is close to making a decision on the Senate seat and that Judge McKelvie is the only other candidate. When the governor tells Snow he must separate himself from the church, Snow complies, telling himself and his elders that God is leading him on a path to Washington, D.C.
Judge McKelvie doesn't even remember how to operate a courthouse without corruption. He's been on the mob's payroll for ages, taking bribes in exchange for light sentences or acquittals for mob criminals. He figured he could trust Tom O'Sullivan as a go-between --- someone who delivers the payoffs --- but he didn't count on Tom turning to Christianity to quash an out-of-control gambling habit. And he certainly never expected the profound effect this turn would take on Tom's life. When Tom tells the judge he has a tape of their last encounter, including an incriminating conversation, McKelvie panics. The tape would not only prevent the judge from getting the Senate seat, it would also land him in prison. McKelvie meets with his mob contacts, setting in motion a series of violent acts that leaves two people dead, one assumed dead, and one teetering on the edge of life.
THE AMBITION is author Lee Strobel's fiction debut after penning several award-winning nonfiction titles, including the bestselling Case series. He artfully weaves his extensive experience as an investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune, combined with his own journey from atheist to pastor, into a compelling suspense. Told from four points of view, THE AMBITION moves forward at a good pace, keeping the reader intrigued by a plot as believable as it is fascinating. Chicagoans will especially enjoy the setting, with everything from hot dog stands to courthouse scenes ringing true.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on May 17, 2011