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The Church Builder (The Church Builder #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  82 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
The Church Builder is the first book in a series of at least three Christian-themed thrillers written by A. L. Shields, the pseudonym of New York Times bestselling author Stephen L. Carter. Each story is fast-paced and intricate, with the clock ticking as the protagonist battles malevolent forces. Harry Stean is an architect who designs traditional church buildings and cat ...more
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Zondervan (first published July 1st 2013)
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Kevin McAllister
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Stephen L. Carter is a respected professor of law at Yale University and an author of several fiction and non fiction books. When publishing the Church Builder he used the pseudonym A. L. Shields and after reading this novel I have a very good understanding of why he used a pseudonym. Mainly; the book is bad. Quite bad.
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
From A. L. Shields---pseudonym for New York Times best-selling author Stephen L. Carter---comes a thrilling new series about a secret war between the forces of faith and those who would destroy it.

In the first volume, small-town lawyer Bethany Barclay, struggling to piece together the final months of her best friend's life, becomes the pawn of both sides. One group focused on destroying all religion. One group struggling to preserve the church. One woman searching for the truth. The evidence is
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Six months ago, Bethany Barclay’s best friend was murdered. Now Bethany comes home to find the body of her ex-boyfriend on her floor, her gun on the floor, and a strange symbol painted on the wall—a symbol that reminds her of something Annabelle said before she died. Are the two deaths related? Bethany believes so, but the police are convinced she’s responsible for Ken’s death. She goes on the run to try and find the link between the two murders, but things get harder when she’s implicated in a ...more
Oct 13, 2013 rated it liked it
A Girl on the Run in the Battle Between Good and Evil

Bethany Barkley, an attorney, meets with Ken Kirkland. He's convinced his mother was manipulated into leaving her fortune to what he considers a religious cult, the Planners. He holds Bethany responsible because she prepared the will. Bethany knows she acted in good faith, but when she arrives home she finds Ken dead on the kitchen floor with two bullets from her gun in him. The police are sure she's responsible. When Bethany starts receiving
Christian Fiction Addiction
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
A. L. Shields has written a taut, absorbing read in "The Church Builder", a book full of twists and turns as Bethany Barclay races to uncover the secrets that have forced her to be on the run. The story moves along well, although at 432 pages it's a lengthy read. There were several moments that I didn't see coming, and the author kept me guessing as to who were the good folks and who were the bad. Along with the action-packed scenes that drive the story forward, the characters are well-developed ...more
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love to try out new authors, especially if the book is suspense. I had been looking at this book for quite a while, wanting to buy it, but not wanting to fork out the $26.99 for it. The one reason I don't like hardcover books - the price. I was still debating buying it when I discovered it on the list of books for review from Thomas Nelson/Zondervan, so I snagged it.

This is an awesome book. It had a complicated plot, but not so complicated that its hard to keep up with or understand. The ide
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Bethany Barclay is running for her life. She’s a struggling attorney who’s been framed for the murder of a client. To clear her name, she must follow the trail left by her friend Annabelle to find out who killed her and why. This is a fast paced thriller of a novel, the first in a new series, written by bestselling novelist Stephen L Carter (Emperor of Ocean Park) under the pseudonym A.L. Shields. Even though it is on the Zondervan list it is not a novel written just for a Christians but for fan ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it is because I listened to the audio version of the book, but this was a confusing book. There are several shadowy organizations to which we are privy, but we don't know the names of the members. Most of the time I wasn't really sure what their aims were. True to form, the author, Stephen Carter writing under his pen name, A.L. Shields, is quite wordy. I thought the book was overly long. What I did like was the suspense as lawyer, Bethany Barclay, tries to uncover the truth of her friend, ...more
Brian Meadows
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This novel, once you get into it, is gripping and hard to put down. The events are complex and shrouded in mystery. You never know who is working for who and when deceit is being practiced. However, it is billed as a Christian-themed novel, but I thought that aspect was there but very weak. No one was overtly relying on God - it was man's forces for evil trying to ruin the church in general (Wilderness) vs man's forces for good trying to preserve the church (Garden) against the evil intent of th ...more
Victor Gentile
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A. L. Shields in his new book, “The Church Builder” Book One in The Church Builder series published by Thomas Nelson introduces us to Bethany Barclay.

From the back cover: One group focused on destroying all religion. One group struggling to preserve the church. One woman searching for the truth.

The evidence is against her. The FBI is right behind her. A malevolent killer has her in his sights. And as Bethany digs deeper into a complex web of lies surrounding her ties to the murder of her client’
Lisa Johnson
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Title: The Church Builder
Author: A.L. Shields
Pages: 420
Year: 2013
Publisher: Zondervan
Bethany Barclay is a lone lawyer, practicing in a small town in Virginia. She has some family she sees fairly regularly and her mentor, a former judge, with whom she also stays in touch with regularly. Her best friend, Annabelle Seaver, is to put it nicely…flaky. Bethany really has no other social contacts. Annabelle enters her life sporadically on Annabelle’s time table, which is never predictable. Then Annabel
Gayle Pace
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it

This first novel of A.L.Shields (Stephen L. Carter, Professor of Law at Yale) is going to carry on in a wonderful series. The plot revolves around two secret societies opposing each other while involved in a religious battle. There is a wide variety of characters that is hard to know who is good and who is evil. The story moves at a fast pace which at times it is hard to keep the characters straight.It is a roller coaster ride with lots of twists and turns. The book is full of evil and goo
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it

The book for review is “The Church Builder” by A.L. Shields. It falls into the genres of fiction, Christian and suspense.

Over the centuries good versus evil has been fought. Each side believing their right The Garden and the Wilderness are their names with members in high places and very prominent as well.

Enter Bethany Barclay, a lawyer by profession, who simply does a will for a woman. An ordinary part of her job. What she does not know is events have been set in motion with her in mind. She is
I’m always a little wary of writers who publish under pseudonyms. There are good points on both sides of the debate, but Ann Rice managed to go from vampires to Jesus without a pseudonym quite successfully. I’d also never read anything under A L Shields’ real name of Stephen L Carter, so I really had no idea what I was going to get. What drew me to The Church Builder was the plot. It promised to be a battle between the good and the totally not so good. I also knew going in that it was the first ...more
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
I’m struggling to write this review because I don’t really know what to say. I want to be encouraging and excited, but the truth is that I barely finished this book. If I hadn’t agreed to review it, I probably would have put it down and walked away. The most concise explanation for my review: by chapter 15 I still hadn’t related to the main character and found it hard to care what happened to her.

There’s no real connection to the main character, Bethany. I’ve read some books where I’m so drawn i
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoy a good thriller. The action and mystery, the intrigue and suspense. The Church Builder has all of it. Plus conspiracy theories, assassins and ancient artifacts.

The plot is exciting, lots of action, lots of drama, and some surprising twists and turns. But there are also some calmer, and even comforting moments, usually about God. I like the way the story occasionally takes breaks from the action. There are a few parts where the story drags a bit, but overall, very exciting.

As you might ex
Karen Deblieck
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the spirit of all things conspiratal A.L. Shields weaves a fine tale of deep rooted secret societies with Bethany Barclay as a pawn. This book had a surprise at every turn and I had no idea where it was going. To the point that sometimes I didn't want to turn the page for fear of what would happen to the poor protagonist. The pace and plotting were well done and mostly plausible. Once in awhile I did wonder if anybody in their right mind would take the chances that Bethany did. But all in all ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am so grateful that I looked beyond the title to the synopsis of this incredible book. The title led me to believe that it would be a book about enlarging church attendance which really would not be a book that I would read.

It took me a while to read this book. At over 400 pages it is a long; however, I never wanted to put it down. The characters were so well portrayed that I felt like I knew them. I cheered on the main character, Bethany Barclay, who had been set up, framed for murder and no
Janet Sketchley
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Church Builder is a fast-paced conspiracy-and-chase novel. Bethany retraces her dead friend Annabelle's steps, FBI Agent Carraway tries to catch her, and the shadowy members and minions of both Garden and Wilderness plot and manipulate.

Bethany is a pawn in a centuries-old power struggle between two secret groups: the Garden and the Wilderness. The Garden guards people's religious freedom, Christian and other. The Wilderness wants a world based on reason, and will undermine faith any way they
Laura Chambers
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I CANNOT wait to read more of this series! It has all the elements that would make an AWESOME TV series (though I don't know how they'd hide the identities of some characters when you can hear their voices). A battle between good and evil, darkness and light...."The Church Builder" is not one to be missed. With missing religious artifacts, fugitives from justice, and 2 secret societies that have been battling for centuries - I am looking forward to what happens next.
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, first-reads
I won this book from Goodreads First reads. It's not my usual genre, but this was such a good book!! I am so glad I read it. The plot twists were unending. It is an exciting book, full of intrigue, murder mystery, and a good vs. evil component that goes back for centuries. I highly recommend this book. The only bad thing was that when the book ended, the story didn't, so I will be looking for the sequel.
Talaiyah Neal
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was wonderful. It kept me guessing, until the end. It is refreshing at times, to read a book that isn't so obvious. Definitely, recommend this book. Now, if only UPS could hurry with the next installment of this series.
Jan 22, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-new
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-christian
I enjoyed this book, looking forward to next book
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Waiting for the sequel! It was a little long winded in some parts but great story!
John Hanscom
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great till the end. It is one thing to have a "cliffhanger." It is quite another to leave things hanging.
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
Disclaimer, I won this book through First Reads. It was an enjoyable read, lots of twists that I wasn't expecting. Hope that the next book in the series isn't too long in the writing.
Susan Treat
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
easy read
Ryan Hillis
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
excellent Christian thriller
rated it liked it
Oct 20, 2013
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