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Shepherd Suspense #1

A Cross to Kill

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A gripping debut thriller pits a man of God against terrorists--and his own deadly past

John Cross is a small-town pastor, bent on leading his flock to follow God's calling. He's not the sort of man one would expect to have a checkered past.

But the truth is that the man behind the pulpit preaching to his sheep was once a wolf--an assassin for the CIA. When John decided to follow Christ, he put that work behind him, determined to do penance for all the lives he took. He vowed never to kill again.

Now someone wants the peaceful pastor to pay for his sins with his own life. And when a terrorist out for revenge walks into the church, John's secrets are laid bare. Confronted with his past, he must face his demons and discover whether a man can truly change. Can he keep his vow--even when the people he loves are in mortal danger? Will his congregation and the brave woman he's learning to care for be caught in the cross fire? In the end, John's life may be the only sacrifice he has left to offer. . .

Andrew Huff's thrilling debut is not only a riveting story of suspense, it's also a deep exploration of the moral quandaries that face those who choose to follow the Prince of Peace in a violent world. "An action-packed nail-biter from beginning to end! . . . I couldn't put it down."

--Lynette Eason, best-selling, award-winning author of the Blue Justice series

250 pages, Paperback

Published October 15, 2019

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About the author

Andrew Huff

3 books49 followers
Andrew Huff is the author of the action-packed Shepherd Suspense Series from Kregel Publications. The first book in the series, A Cross to Kill, was a finalist in the Mystery/Thriller categories of both the 2020 Foreword INDIE awards as well as the 2020 ACFW Carol Awards. Huff is an accomplished novelist as well as screenwriter and has worked in the church media and entertainment industry after spending 10 years as a leader in local church ministry. He currently calls North Texas home where he and his beautiful wife Jae raise their two boys and rescue dog.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews
Profile Image for Jayna Baas.
Author 3 books139 followers
June 14, 2022
I’m struck by the timing of rereading this right after my pastor’s teaching on biblical church leadership. This book could be a case in point for why Paul warned Timothy not to ordain any man suddenly without investigating his character—you may wind up with a former assassin who’s still in touch with the CIA!

This book’s premise is still as intriguing to me as it was the first time, though. A CIA assassin turned pastor? Right up my alley. I love action but don’t like a lot of bloodshed, so I enjoyed a hero who has vowed not to take another life. I also really appreciated the clarity of the gospel message, John’s struggle to grow in his faith, and his efforts to relate to Christine in a God-honoring way. I’m a big fan of Christian characters acting like and growing as children of God, even if they aren’t perfect and occasionally have to ambush CIA officers, “borrow” other people’s cars, and generally be sneaky. There were tons of great action moments as well as character development and some snarky banter. Love the scene with John trying to handle a phone call with one of his church ladies in the middle of a car chase! Speaking of which, the car chases did drag on a bit for my taste, but I can’t help applauding the detail and incredible planning those scenes must have required. As noted, I’m not sure John went about starting his pastoral ministry in the best fashion, and I wish he would have gone a little more in-depth in discussing faith with a “religious” character instead of just pointing him to another church of that character’s doctrinally questionable denomination. The gospel was so strong in other places that that felt like a missed opportunity. The climax was a bit abrupt at times, but still so powerful. I love the theme of really becoming a new person in Christ. Overall, this was an interesting read and a fun, action-packed Christian thriller. Kudos to Mr. Huff!
Profile Image for Jes Drew.
Author 47 books439 followers
October 15, 2019
It's always great to see the Christian market publishing more than just Amish, literary, and romance, so I was already on board for this little something different. That this book is about a preacher with a dark past as a CIA officer made me not want to ever get off the ship.

This story is almost non-stop action, but the characters shine in this. There's John Cross, our preacher who thinks he can redeem his own past, poor confused soul; Heather, the reporter who he rescued and is trying to track him down; Guin, his former co-worker; and a mysterious villain as upset about all this killing as our hero is- along with many others, all dealing with big life issues against the backdrop of something even bigger than themselves.

Unfortunately, they mess up a lot. Like the church choosing an unmarried, newer Christian to be their preacher- that was a big mess up even though John Cross tried so hard to live up to the role. And Heather slaps injured men in the face because they're late to dates... making Guin the obviously superior woman in John's life. Team Guin all the way.

This book was almost non-stop action all the way, with hilarious comic scenes that can only come from a CIA officer turned preacher, and an epic climax to cinch it. I can't wait for the rest of the series with more John Cross- and, I can only hope, more Guin.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, and the opinions are my own.

Also published on my blog, Agency of Books and Spies: https://agencyofbooksandspies.blogspo...
Profile Image for Peter Younghusband.
363 reviews45 followers
November 24, 2019
I saw this novel advertised in my Twitter feed and was drawn to the description. I joined the book tour to obtain a review copy but had issues with the website in downloading it, so bought my own copy. I am so glad I did. This novel lives up to its description and more!

I have read similar novels where the special ops operative is a Christian. However, this novel takes this to the next level. It is similar to another series I am reading, A Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery (K.P Gresham) where a police officer is in witness protection while the court case against the underworld criminal who killed his police officer father is being held. He becomes a pastor in a rural town, changes his name change and becomes involved in the murders in this town and those after him finally track him to this town. Each author has a different focus, both very appealing, very impressive, two different outlooks and feel. Both well worth the read.

From reading some of the reviews of Huff’s novel, everyone seems to agree, this is one wild, roller-coaster ride of a read! It is totally engaging, gripping, suspenseful, thrilling, fast-paced, exciting and cannot be put down. It is also well-written. For a debut novel, it is not obvious that it is so. Huff has a confident and competent command of the English language that forms a solid foundation for this novel to move the reader forward and become thoroughly invested. And this does not let up until the very end.

Huff definitely knows how to write fight scenes and car chases. Believe me, this novel is plentiful in both! They are detailed and involved. They played in my mind like a movie. While some other author’s descriptions of these two events can be imagined as far-fetched, I did not get this impression from this novel. For me, that is a huge plus! I started to imagine the bruises and the aches and pain, the cuts, abrasions and lacerations that John and to a lesser degree, Christine, sustained during these scenes.

Huff also knows how to create characters that are relational and well developed. When I look at what John and Christine went through in this novel, Huff could not afford to have these two as two-dimensional. It would have made this novel fall flat on its face and lose all credibility. But he has not created them to be this. I was instantly endeared to John but it took a while for me to be the same with Christine. I interpreted her as cashing in on her experience, traumatic as it was, at the expense of John. But when the attempts on their lives occurred, I saw her in a different light. Huff then introduced the element of romance between the two and I was endeared towards her. How I am looking forward to seeing this developed further in the rest of the series.

There is a sincerity, genuineness and honesty about John, a man of integrity. He is totally committed to God and living out the Word of God in his life. Quite a feat to stand up to the CIA and say he will do covert ops but not kill anymore! And these qualities become the springboard for the spiritual aspects of this novel. As John lives out the Word in his life, this is biblical as we are instructed to be doers of the Word and not hearers only as stated in James 1:22,

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

But this is further expounded where John meets the antagonist in a death-to-the-end fight. John is torn between following his natural instinct to kill in self-defence against obeying God’s command to not kill. John obeying the command of God and the antagonist so full of hate and revenge that it is one very tense moment. John realises he could die at the hand of this terrorist but stands firm in the truth of God’s Word and in the person of Jesus Christ and who He is. Then comes one of the most powerful scenes of redemption and forgiveness I have ever read in fiction. It brought me to tears, not from John’s point of view, but for the terrorist and what he went through, or rather, what the Spirit revealed to him at that moment. This is Christian fiction at its best and Huff does it well.

Once I recovered myself from this scene, I was struck with the thought that what if this happens in real life? What if there are covert special ops agents who are Christian and who are placed in this situation or similar? I believe there would be situations like this. We have already similar in those Christians tortured by the Romans in the Coliseum and over the centuries since, who are tortured for their faith and then killed. Why should situations in covert special ops be any different? I even thought to myself that how would it be if I was placed in a situation at my level in everyday life if I was confronted with a man or woman wielding a weapon and was intent on killing me because they hated the God whom I served and whom I loved? I pray I would have the John Cross approach and let the Spirit have His way no matter what outcome for me.

Even the situations where Christine was showed the love of Christ through the witness of a few others, and in particular from John, were powerful to show how God works and the power of our Christian witness. Who would have thought that a lady like Lori (and we all have them in our congregations!) could be the one used by God to plant the seed of faith in Christine? One unlikely character on the surface but who showed insight into the Gospel and the God she loves to plainly and simply express it to Christine. Lori plants, John waters and God brings in the harvest! And yet, Huff portrays the opposite with John and Eric Paulson. John plants the seed and the watering will be, I presume, in the next novel. I cannot see how Huff could exclude Eric from the rest of this series. Huff shows how it is to be for us as in the Gospel, we are used by God to plant a seed of faith here or to water another there. God brings in the Harvest. Eric’s salvation or restoration to God lies in the rest of the series.

This is one of a few novels of this genre, where the spiritual/biblical aspects are interwoven seamlessly into the fabric of the plot arcs despite them otherwise being in opposition to each other. I have read others where the former aspects are not depicted to the depth they are here and loosely applied or the protagonist is Christian but there is not much or at all of the expression of their faith or any of the Gospel presented. Such a shame. I have read others where the same sticks out like a sore thumb, derails the plot and just does not fit in. Hence the criticism from Christians and non-Christians alike. However, Huff has stepped away from this practice and has set his calibre and standard in this debut novel. This is so refreshing. An author friend of mine has stated that if you write for God, God and all He stands for will be expressed in the novel (or words to that effect!). Based on that, Huff has achieved this.

In the About tab of this blog I state that I like to see the following in Christian Fiction:

-it has entertained me immensely,
-it has encouraged my walk with God,
-it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine,
-it honours God,
-it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God).

Huff has succeeded in the first four and these are applicable to this novel. I can honestly say that Huff has found his niche in Christian Fiction. This is one author to follow and support in buying his novels and reviewing them. He definitely has my support and I am more than willing to review his novels in the future.

I have no regrets about getting involved in this book tour. This novel has been a great blessing and I am so looking forward to the rest of this series. I am glad the next one is not too far away.

This is one impressive debut novel. Huff has some encouraging and positive reviews on Amazon that showcase the praises of his creation. The jury is in!

Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Overall Rating: 4.4 Stars
Profile Image for Tressa (Wishful Endings).
1,720 reviews182 followers
June 10, 2020
A CROSS TO KILL starts off action-packed as the heroine is rescued from execution by terrorists and then has a few moments of calm before the action continues all the way to the end of the story. Endearing characters, a strong faith element, a touch of romance, a a fast-paced plot make for a highly entertaining read. Also recommended to readers who enjoy military fiction or Bourne movies.

I pretty much couldn't turn the pages fast enough for much of this story. I really liked John and Christine, although I didn't necessarily like how Christine wasn't worried about blowing John's cover. There were plenty of fist fights and car chases if you like that kind of action-fueled story. The faith element was a bit strong. It can be a difficult balance for someone becoming converted to feel genuine as well as sharing scriptures and moments of faith in a story. I felt like most of it worked until it was pushed a bit too much. Still a good message and some sweet moments. Some of the community members, particularly Lori, were delightful aspects of this story. I also loved the play on John's name... his code name being Shepherd, his last name being Cross and him becoming a pastor. I thought that aspect to be quite genius. There really wasn't romance, but there was a relationship formed that led to it. I was okay with that not being the main focus of the story.

I did have a few issues with the way some of the things played out. They seemed a bit overly plotted and unrealistic, particularly with the lead terrorist and John's CIA boss. I also didn't like how John was trying to redeem himself and also punish himself instead of letting his faith do the redeeming. But, not huge issues overall.

In the end, was it what I wished for? This was a fairly intense, action-packed read. Definitely one I'd recommend if you enjoy reading Christian suspense and military fiction. I'm looking forward to see what happens next in the Shepherd Suspense series!

Content: Quite a bit of violence, which is expected for this type of story (nothing too detailed or gory).
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the the publisher through Audra Jennings PR, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Kaitlyn Krispense.
Author 1 book85 followers
January 29, 2020
A Cross to Kill started out with a bang—Christine, reporter in Jordan about to get executed on-camera, is suddenly rescued by a mysterious man that disappears as soon as he ushers Christine to safety. Definitely a hooker scene.

John Cross is an enigma to most people—ex-CIA-turned-preacher. Quite a combination that made me dying to read the book once I read the synopsis. The writing style was hooking, yet there were instances where it almost seemed to pull me away from the story.

For instance, the writing style is quick and lively, describing few details, and yet I was okay with that because of how the story was. But every once in awhile, it was as if a big, descriptive word was thrown into the middle of a sentence just to let the reader know that the story was worth reading.

USING BIG WORDS WHEN IT DOESN'T FIT THE REST OF THE STORY DOESN'T WORK. It doesn't make the story sound more intelligent or whimsical; on the contrary, it makes it sound like the author is making too big an effort to pull the reader in, when in actuality, it does the opposite.

So. Mini rant over, I really did enjoy the plot and characters:

-John Cross himself. That dude is nuts (I mean . . . being a preacher is his day job but he takes covert missions to rescue people??) but he's fabulous all the same. Kind of a cross between Walker, Texas Ranger and MacGyver. Except present day. With stun guns.

-Christine was pretty good . . . this might be considered a spoiler, but I appreciated her respect for John's privacy and his plea to stay out of the media. She wasn't the ultra-annoying, anything-for-a-story reporter.

-John's congregation was amazing and I love Lori.

-Guin. Guinnnnn. She was funny, in her own way. *Smirks*

What I wanna know is, whyyyy must they be attracted to each other at first sight?! Dude rescues girl from mortal danger, so she's probably going to be naturally attracted to him; he saved her from death. BUT. For some reason he just can't get her out of his mind! Wow! They've known each other for a couple of hours, and already he feels overprotective of her, almost ready to blow his cover just so he can talk to her over the phone!

*Coughs* Sorry this wasn't intended to be a rant review.

But there's more.

Let's talk about love triangles, shall we?

Now, I'll give a disclaimer and say that THE LOVE TRIANGLE WASN'T MAJOR. In fact, it was barely there. BUT. Girl likes guy. Guy likes girl. Other girl likes guy. Girls glare at each other, particularly the one not in the guy's sights. So that was . . . interesting. But how it all worked out was swell.

OKAY SO THOSE LAST SCENES. The suspense and drama of the entire book allllll built up to those last scenes. And suddenly . . . it's over?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if only one scene in particular is mentioned in the book's synopsis, shouldn't it be at the very least longer than just a few pages? I mean, I was waiting and waiting for this scene because I was excited to see what happened . . . and then it was suddenly over and done with.

So, yes, the book was good, just not quite my thing. ;)

Just sayin', I'm in no way bashing the author! The book just happened to use several of my pet peeves and that tends to get me on a rant.

*I received a free e-copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.
Profile Image for Wade.
642 reviews10 followers
June 19, 2020
“Truth. What truth? The truth that before Christ, he was nothing. And since his decision, Cross had discovered true meaning, true purpose. It was true. All of it. His wrong...the world’s wrong, none of it meant truth couldn’t be found. It could. But only in one place. In one person.”

“Mission. It was all that mattered now. Just as it had so many times before. Only this time he wasn’t in the business of taking lives. This time he would save them.”

“A reporter, a CIA officer, an ex-CIA officer turned evangelist team up to stop a terrorist attack on Union Station. Sounds like a terrible movie.”

This was a fantastic book and even more remarkable, this was Andrew Huff’s first novel. But he handles it like a pro. This is a manly book in many ways, though I think both genders will enjoy the non-stop action, great characters, Christianity, and the perfect amount of romance. This book starts off with a bang in Jordan as John Cross tries to stop a beheading of a female journalist who ultimately finds Cross as a preacher in a church in Mechanicsville, Virginia (which oddly enough is where I was born and raised!!). This is a story for fans of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series or Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, except what sets it apart is all of the Christian and redemption elements. I loved it and will definitely be reading Book 2!

For more reviews, please check out my blog!
Profile Image for Abigail Harris.
Author 25 books180 followers
March 28, 2020
Review of A Cross To Kill by Andrew Huff: I may or may not have stayed up way past bedtime, like 2 in the morning reading this, oops? NOT!!! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there was romance, secrets, danger, a beating which wasn't great (who wants to see their pastor beaten up?), there were attacks, and more secrets, not a surprise, right? But there was a uniqueness to the story that completely set this apart from most suspense in a good way. I was somewhat surprised that the book mentioned so many different denominations of churches. The writing style could be slightly boring and too descriptive at points, in all it was all right.I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Cara Putman.
Author 48 books1,610 followers
June 17, 2020
This book is an adrenaline rush -- starting with a desperate attempt to save a journalist before she is beheaded and racing to the end with an attempt to subvert a terrorist plot. It's all interconnectected in a web of the hero's past colliding with his future. This book reminded me of Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series or Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. A hero who is trying to reconcile his past with the man he wants to be now with a thin overlay of possible romance.
Profile Image for Ian.
Author 3 books38 followers
November 24, 2019
This story starts fast and doesn't really let up for the rest of it. John Cross is a 'retired' assassin who worked for the CIA and after giving his life to God determines to live the life of a small town pastor. However, his past won';t let go of him.

It's a good story especially as it's not the usual thing we get to read in Christian fiction. Here is a man, grappling with being obedient to God, to his new calling while all the habits and thoughts so ingrained in his heart and mind seek to keep him from that obedience. It's a fascinating insight into the struggle we all have to allow our hearts and minds to focus on the kingdom of God rather than the world we're familiar to.

Cross is a good character and I'm excited to see how Huff develops him through the series. What I found intriguing in this first story Cross appeared more at ease in his old role, the assassin. When we see him as pastor, he's a bit stiff and tied to what I'd describe as 'religious'-type behaviours to keep focused on his pastoring. He was a traditional old school preacher who was still learning on the job. I hope we see his character develop where he warms to his pastoral role and more significantly, being a man who walks with God.

Christine Lewis is also a good character who is not your average journalist. She's gutsy and feisty. I'm also looking forward to seeing how she develops in the series.

The action was intense and at times a little hard to visualise. I found that perhaps it went on for too long, particularly the car chases that covered multiple chapters. I hope as Huff develops he'll be less reliant on using the same action tropes, eg, the car chase. However, he handles it all very well and keeps the pace fast which keeps the pages turning.

This is an intriguing series that I'm sure will develop into a really good one.

I received a complimentary ebook copy from Audra Jennings PR and Kregel via Netgalley with no expectation of a favourable review.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
1,135 reviews26 followers
October 26, 2019
He's called back...for one more mission...

OK, so totally new author to me, I see that this is Andrew Huff's debut novel, but I've come to like some of the publisher's other books so I figured I'd give it a whirl. I've found Kregel's suspense/mystery books to be a bit edgier which can be a good thing. When I read the blurb for A Cross To Kill I was intrigued, I mean, a CIA assassin turned preacher?

So, this book is non-stop action from the prologue to the last page. If this were a movie I'd call it a PG-13 action thriller. Seriously, it has car chases, explosions, fist fights, gun and knife battles, daring stunts involving everything from cars to helicopters to boats to trains, terrorists, kidnapping... Call me sexist, but, I felt that this book really benefited from having been written by a man. It just seemed more believable for its genre.

While A Cross To Kill may be Andrew Huff's debut I have to say that it didn't feel like a debut novel at all. The characters were as fleshed out as they can be in this type of story and I found myself sympathizing with John Cross's struggles to separate himself from the violence of his past. Though, his attempts to atone for his perceived sins, sorry I have a hard time feeling bad for the deaths of terrorists etc., are a bit misplaced. But I think many people can understand the blocks we place in our own minds that keep us from fully accepting God's grace and forgiveness.

Anyway, A Cross To Kill was a good read, one that I was definitely in the mood for when I started it, and I'm greatly looking forward to finding out what Andrew Huff has in store for John Cross, Christine, and readers in the next book in the series.

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.)
Profile Image for Kara Linaburg.
Author 6 books201 followers
April 13, 2020
When I chose to review this book, I didn't know what to expect. I'd never heard of Andrew Huff but an assassin turned pastor? Terrorists? Suspense? All in one?!
The story line is a complete thumbs up. I loved the idea behind it all -- especially because pastors are normally left in the back burner of exciting stories (ok ALWAYS left in the back burner). Plus when you depict pastor's it's normally in the stuffy, normal fashion and y'all my dad is a pastor and he is not stuffy. He preaches theology and doctrine and can debate with the best of 'em but he's also a pretty cool human too.
Andrew Huff accomplished that and more -- he created a fascinating character who is trying to run from his past but it's catching up with him! The writing style is pretty clean and well done. The first few chapters were pretty cheesy (because Cross can kick butt y'all) and he does it hard-core (without killing a soul mind you).
I wanted to like this book ( a lot) but the cheese was pretty obvious. Like really, obvious. I'm rating this three stars because I liked it, but the cheesiness was a bit much. He took a couple guys down at once (with no freaking weapon), enjoys showing and basically loves the thrill of a hunt (even though he wouldn't admit it).
The Christian themes are a little in your face too-- especially towards the end. I appreciate them being there but it was more rubbing it in, and the ending was about 100% predicable.

OK. So note, I real Steven James y'all -- I read hardcore suspense all the time. For those looking for a solid, Christian read, Andrew Huff's series is it. It just wasn't for me when it came down to it. *Shrugs*

Thank you to the publisher for sending this book my way -- all thoughts are my own.
Profile Image for Joan.
3,580 reviews64 followers
October 24, 2019
Wow. This novel is almost nonstop action. Heart pounding, nail biting action. You may think you've read an exciting auto chase scene but wait until you read this book. You may think you've read the most exciting hostage rescue ever. Guess again.

The character development is great. Imagine an assassin for the US government getting saved, leaving the agency and becoming a small town preacher. Imagine the turmoil in his soul, knowing God has forgiven him but never forgetting what he has done. Imagine him taking on an occasional rescue for the agency when they can guarantee he will not have to kill anyone. Imagine the woman he rescued. A reporter for a news network, she is determined to find the mystery man who nearly gave his life to save hers. And she does, ultimately endangering both of their lives.

There are several aspects of this novel I especially like. One is that the salvation message comes through loud and clear. But it also fits very well into the development of the plot. Another is that the female reporter gets into the action later in the book. She turns out to be an exceptional sidekick as the two save the US from terrorists.

Great action scenes, great character development, great plot, great representation of salvation and Christian faith. I really liked this novel and will be impatiently waiting for the next in the series. Finally, a thriller from a Christian viewpoint where the quality of the writing is right up there with the big guys. That this book is his debut novel is amazing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
Profile Image for Leslie.
234 reviews3 followers
December 13, 2019
The idea of a CIA operative turned minister seems a wee bit far-fetched, but it is indeed the main emphasis of the brand new book A Cross to Kill by Andrew Huff. This suspense novel filled with terrorists, fight scenes, and high-speed chases is beyond my normal reading diet, but the premise of a highly skilled hitman, becoming a Christian, walking away from his highly lucrative career, and then becoming a minister seemed to good to pass up. Add in the rescue of a high-profile female journalist and I was hooked.

A Cross to Kill by Andrew Huff is not a book I would normally pick up to read, but I really enjoyed it. The book is fast-paced and keeps your attention. I appreciated that although the book includes Middle Eastern terrorists Huff does not engage in ethnic-bashing, and a huge plot twist shows the true enemy to be someone else completely. It is the first in the Shepherd Suspense series, and I look forward to reading more about John Cross and Christine Lewis. The CIA aspect appeals to men and there is enough romance to appeal to women as well. Highly recommended for men and women high school and up!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received A Cross to Kill from Kregel via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Profile Image for Vera Godley.
1,695 reviews31 followers
December 14, 2019
I'll admit the cover wasn't necessarily a "come on" to me with its stark red, black, and white graphic and the title was a bit of a put off as well. But after reading the book's premise or back cover matter and knowing the publisher, Kregel, was tops, I committed to reviewing the book.

This isn't your typical Christian fiction that appeals to ladies. This one is so action-packed, and mind-bending that it will soon be a favorite of men who enjoy a fast paced read with the element of faith an integral part.

The first 28 pages were breath taking, action packed, nail-biting with its terse, rapid fire narrative of an exfil or rescue.

Then the book has a few pages of normal - if the CIA, spies, and terrorists can be considered normal - paced interlude setting the stage for the life and actions of the main character, John Cross. He is known by a code name for his work with the CIA. But he is also lovingly known as pastor of a small church.

A bit of romance is mingled within the main thread of the story.

This is the first in a three book series (I think) and the promise of exciting adventures to come incites compelling anticipation. Next is Cross Shadow (Shepherd Suspense 2) and I look forward to its release

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.
Profile Image for Meagan Myhren-Bennett.
Author 12 books22 followers
October 25, 2019
A Cross to Kill
A Shepherd Suspense Novel #1
By Andrew Huff

John Cross has a secret past and he wants to keep it that way, but occasionally the CIA needs his help. But he is determined to not take a life if he can help it. His past as an assassin for the CIA is at odds with his current call - that of a small-town pastor.

When he is again called to rescue Christine Lewis, a news journalist captured by AIM (Alliance of Islamic Military) he has to act fast and keep his shots sure so as to not take a life. But his rescue of Christine soon has her on the scent of a story - the story of her own rescue and the mystery man who saved her just in time.

But when Cross's past comes looking for him everyone he cares about is in danger. Can he keep his vow of peace when lives are at stake?

A Cross to Kill is the first book in the Shepherd Suspense series and it promises to be a most intriguing series if this book is any indication. And if you are wondering about the "Shepherd" well there are two reasons - the first with Christine's rescue the code name Cross uses and the second that Cross is a pastor.

This book is Christian Suspense and it definitely falls well within this heading but don't expect a clean no violence read - it just isn't excessive like some suspense reads. This book explores the moral compass of a life that has determined to change. But can the sins of the past ever truly be left behind? This is the situation that John Cross finds himself in and it proves to be a most excellent story thread throughout without being in your face and preachy.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion. All thoughts expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,344 reviews23 followers
November 23, 2019
This book sounded really good, but no offense intended....the publisher isn't known for great suspense authors or books. Those come from Nelson, Zondervan, Revell, etc. But it sounded really good....so I requested it to review.

This has to be the best book Kregel ever published. Seriously. Talk about non stop action and an adrenaline rush from reading a book. It starts out with a televised execution being filmed live, and doesn't slow down until the last page, which is when I finally took a breath.

A likable character is important, and the author came up with a great and very likable character in John Cross. Former assassin for the CIA, and now a pastor of a small country church where he tries to atone for his past. Huff did an excellent job on portraying the struggle of not going back into that life as his past caught up with him and temptations to give into the old killing urges came up in him.

The book is unapologetically Christian, while also being one of the most intense suspense novels I have read for a while. It was full of twists and turns intertwined with Biblical truths.

I have found the Christian fiction market to be extremely geared towards women. Books that are for men, or at least geared more towards men, seem to be a rarity. This book is one of those rarities. Sure, women are going to enjoy it, but this is definitely a book you can buy for the male readers in your life. They will not be disappointed, and may even let you read it after they finish it.

Huff pulled off some great accomplishments with this book:

1) He published a debut novel that should shoot him to the top of a lot of reader's favorite authors (including me!)

2) He wrote a totally awesome suspense novel that is intense, action filled, and totally Christian, and that will thrill and interest both men and women.

3) And he pulled it off with a publisher not necessarily known for putting out this kind of award winning fiction. (Well, it is guaranteed to win awards.)

Seriously, people....I don't exaggerate. This is one of the most awesome suspense novels I have read for a long time.... and I have read some great ones. I definitely recommend it, and am looking forward to reading the other two books in this series from this new and very talented author.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
Profile Image for Andi Tubbs.
908 reviews66 followers
December 8, 2019
Debut authors are a hit or miss with me and sadly this one was a miss. I thought the idea of a former CIA operative vowing not to kill again was a great idea. I found the characters flat and more telling of the story than showing. The bad thing for me is that when there is more telling vs showing it’s like my brain gets whiplash.
For me the best part of the book was time spent in the community of the church.
I did like John and thought his code name Shepherd was cool given his occupation change. I’d like to see more of his character development in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via the publisher. I was not required to write a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Morgan Farr.
66 reviews3 followers
December 10, 2019
I review a LOT of books on my blog. Few of the books I review are excellent, many of the books I review are good, and every so often a book comes along that I just don't like. Unfortunately today's review is one of those.

A Cross to Kill by Andrew Huff is a cringe inducing hodgepodge-like mashup of every action movie you can imagine, just with a Christian as the lead man. I wanted to like this book, especially because it was billed as a Christian suspense novel. Unfortunately nothing about this book quite hit the mark the most glaring misses in my opinion were the lukewarm characters and the unrealistic action scenes.

Lets tackle the characters first. Theses are some flat and stereotypical people, almost to the point of being carved out of an archetypal cast. Lead character John is a brooding, ex-military man that found Jesus and is trying to turn his life around when the bad guys find him. The lead female character is a highly motivated career woman that begins to question her purpose in life after meeting this broody man, despite the fact that she knows next to nothing about him. The budding romance between John and Christine reads like a Hallmark Channel movie written for men, complete with phrases like "chocolate eyes" and "shapely figure".

Even if the characters were a little flat I would have still given this book a B if it had not been for the fight scenes and the discussion of Christine's kidnapping.

- Fighting on top of a moving train (and falling asleep on it?!) is one of the most overused action scenes in modern fiction.
-Car chases where bullets are shot at random? That is a national disaster and would have people screaming for gun control.
-Terrorist organizations like the one that abducted Christine in the beginning of the book wouldn't have just slapped her a few times and then let her go. She would have been badly beaten, maimed and raped. Torture has a much more significant impact than what was written here.
-Both John and Christine go through some pretty rough things and yet PTSD doesn't seem to factor in to their lives at all. In fact the few times that John's past is a problem he is able to tamper it down and move on as though it wasn't a major life changing event.

Overall, I give this book a solid C-. It is an easy and boring read that is difficult to want to finish.

*I received this book for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review, all opinions are my own.*
Profile Image for Amy.
445 reviews8 followers
November 27, 2019
Wow! A Cross to Kill is a hard-hitting, roller-coaster ride of action from the first page to the last! I opened this book late one night intending to read a few chapters before going to bed – and found myself up waaayyyyy too late, turning the last page. There wasn’t a single spot that could be called a ‘stopping point’ anywhere in the story!

I love mystery books, and I love suspense stories. A Cross to Kill is a blend of both in the best kind of way; you don’t know exactly who or why the problems keep occuring, but they do, and so you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time, trying desperately to figure it all out.

Huff uses that. In a way, the action sequences are strung together by short – and I do mean short – sections of self-examination, reflection, and interpersonal bonding. Those pieces are important because while they do advance the plot, they explain the emotional effects that the action sequences are having on the main characters. Due to the faith nature of the story, this is really important.

That faith element is crucial. It is a part of every part of the story, usually in a very natural way, and this is huge. It’s rare to find a Christian story that is as hard-hitting with action and suspense as a superhero or crime-drama story, but that’s exactly what A Cross to Kill is. John Cross reads like a faith-based Superman, trying to lead a simple, humble life when he’s instead summoned by evil to save the world.

If action and suspense are your kind of stories, then you won’t want to miss A Cross to Kill.

I received a free copy of this book from Audra Jennings. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Becky.
752 reviews38 followers
October 26, 2019
John Cross is a former CIA assassin who, after finding the Lord, realizes he can no longer kill. He becomes the pastor of a very small church, but his former bosses at the CIA keep pulling him into rescue ops. When a rescue goes awry and John realizes terrorists may still be after the reporter he rescued, he discovers a plot that goes deeper than he dreamed.

A Cross to Kill begins at rapid-fire pace, and that pace doesn't let up throughout the whole novel. There are, however, moments of normalcy and levity (even as the reader knows John's next trial is just around the corner), and these help keep the novel from becoming too intense. I especially loved Lori Johnson and Mrs. Templeton, two of John's elderly parishioners who brought out a different side of him.

John's Christianity is at the forefront of the novel—his relationship with Christ is the reason he left the CIA. I felt like the faith thread was seamlessly woven into the novel, and one of my favorite scenes featured Lori clearly explaining the gospel in a conversation that felt organic, not forced.

While I didn't find myself completely immersed in the novel, I did enjoy it, and I would certainly like to find out what comes next for John Cross.

Disclosure of material connection: I received this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.
June 10, 2020
My expectations for unknown authors are always up in the air, so I had a fresh state of mind when I stared reading A Cross to Kill, and, unfortunately, I ended up having mixed feelings by the time I read the last page. It’s not that it’s written poorly (because it isn’t) but I’ve read other thrillers with similar generic plots.

The protagonist, John Cross, is an interesting character with many flaws. While he attempts to live his life by the word of God, he’s still haunted by his past sins. He has made a vow not to kill anyone ever again, which is difficult to do when he puts himself in harm’s way to save others from the evils of the world.

Overall, A Cross to Kill is an intriguing beginning to a new series, but I ended up being disappointed. I was expecting a more original story than what I got. Now, I’m not saying this is a grim read, as many readers will probably like it. I have read many (and I mean many) thrillers over the years and I was just wanting something different. Even with the Christian theme, the story feels stale and predictable. Like I already said, other readers might like the book more than me. There’s a sneak peek at the next book, Cross Shadow, and I’m definitely interested in reading it as I like the character John Cross!
Profile Image for Natalie Walters.
Author 10 books842 followers
November 11, 2019
Buckle your seatbelt because the second you open this book you're in for a wild ride!

From the very first page, author Andrew Huff, takes readers a head-spinning adventure into the life of John Cross, former CIA assassin turned small-town pastor. With his past shadowing his every move and decision, John Cross is forced to confront the man he used to be and decide if someone really can change. It's a moral question that Mr. Huff handles well and with real authenticity. The pace does not quit on this story and feels a lot like I've jumped into Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne's life. While the story appealed to me, I think this story offers all of the thrilling adventure a male reader will enjoy.

I'm always looking for a quality book to suggest to my 18yo son and I believe this is a story I'd recommend to all readers but especially for those who are looking for a good, solid story for the male readers in their lives--A Cross to Kill is your book!!

***I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to give a favorable review and all opinions expressed are my own.***
Profile Image for Nicole.
715 reviews51 followers
January 20, 2022
A high action packed story.
This book was packed with action scenes. Like Hollywood level stunts.
Part of me wants to study the action beats for my own writing!
A very interesting premise of a spy who is now a pastor and just wanting to leave the business behind.
However I had a few issues with some things.
For one he is a pastor who is taking online courses to learn basic theological principles. Um, I would think he should have that foundation before shepherding others.
Another was the message that Christians should not kill even in the act of protection or service of country. This always rubs me the wrong way, because we don't live in a utopia. Sin and evil are out there and I don't think prayer is the only response. There are mighty men of the Bible (Joshua, Samuel and Ehud), who not only waged war but also carried out assassinations.
I digress.
The book is fast paced and entertaining, the message was a bit thick, but it's ok for a fast read.
Profile Image for Diane Higgins.
532 reviews1 follower
November 5, 2019
This book had non-stop action throughout the whole thing! I have to admit, it wasn't my typical style of book that I usually read. The action was good, and it kept my attention through most of the book. However, there was a little more description in the book than what I prefer. There were Christian elements throughout which I liked. It wasn't preachy or pushy. Therefore, I have mixed feelings about this book. However, for anyone who enjoys a clean, non-stop action read (which are kind of hard to find), I definitely recommend this book.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest opinion.
918 reviews23 followers
October 27, 2019
An excellent beginning of a series I hope to continue reading. Former CIA officer John Cross has left the Agency and is pastoring a small congregation, but his past keeps chasing him. The non-stop action begins with the rescue of a reporter and follows him back to Virginia. The spiritual aspects of the story are very well done, and I would have liked to have more of those scenes instead of chase scenes, which play better on the screen than in the book.I received an advanced digital copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Barbara Tsipouras.
Author 1 book31 followers
November 12, 2019
I love Christian books with real suspense and believable internal struggle. This is one of this rare species.

It is as action-packed as a good James bond movie and the action is just as unbelievable: A hero and his female friend fighting off terrorist (nearly) without any help and without killing anybody. But it's pure suspense.

Woven into this suspense are questions of living a life of faith. What about our sinful nature? Does Jesus really change us? What about forgiveness? Are we really forgiven or do we have to punish ourselves for what we did? Do we really forgive our enemy?
Profile Image for Esther Filbrun.
366 reviews18 followers
December 10, 2019
This book sucked me in instantly, from the first sentence. I loved that! Most books take me several chapters until I really get into them, but this didn’t have that—the action (and hook) were on the first page, which was excellent for this reader, and the genre, too. Somehow, I don’t think I ever put down the book until I got to 30% and the tension got a little easier for a bit. It wasn’t long until I was back for more, though, and I ended up finishing this book in record time!

There were many elements of this story that I really enjoyed. One or two that I didn’t, which might mean that I won’t end up requesting any sequels to review (that’s how I got this copy, too—thank you to Kregel Publications!). The Christian side to the story was very well done, I thought, with common struggles and questions being addressed naturally in the plot.

This story feels somewhat unique in that to me, it’s a grown-up version of an adventure novel. It’s almost too good to be true, but the very reality that it’s impossible to believe that they’ll make it out safely added a fun element to the story. You know one way or another, it will be okay—but you can get the thrill of danger all the same. Oddly enough, I don’t consider myself to be a risk-taking kind of person. But I love thrillers, and this was among the better ones I’ve read.

From a Christian perspective, I’d have to say that I felt this novel was outstanding—for the most part. I don’t appreciate self-defense, as I don’t believe that’s something Jesus taught or advocated in the Bible, but one thing that was valued in here was human life. I appreciated that, because it isn’t something that is always valued.

Like I said, I don’t know if I would read the sequels to this book. It’s tempting—the author clearly knows what he’s doing, even though it almost felt like it was pushed too far sometimes. I didn’t appreciate the amount of violence in this story, even if it is the kind of thing that you’d have to expect from the characters and setting this book has. I also didn’t appreciate the disrespect of other people’s property and the many times people were hurt badly enough they should have died. Though it had some great Christian themes in it, I don’t know if that’s enough to balance it out for me.

If you love mysteries with a huge dash of adventure alongside, and don’t mind a few messy scenes, check this out. It’s the kind of book you don’t put down easily, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need at times!

I requested a free review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
Profile Image for Deb Haggerty.
336 reviews17 followers
December 26, 2019
Deb’s Dozen: Small town pastor or Black Ops Specialist? Either can get you killed.

Andrew Huff started his Shepherd Suspense series with a great action/adventure yarn titled A Cross to Kill. John Cross serves as a small town pastor with a backstory–he “retired” from being in CIA black ops— until they call him back for a special extraction.

Christine Lewis, a journalist captured by terrorists, faces beheading. She’s the package John must extract. But everything goes wrong, and they race for their lives. Will they make the extraction point in time? A dicey escape, but success wins.

Christine wakes up in a hospital, but John is nowhere to be found. Acclaimed a heroine, interviews take up much of her time. But the story they told her—that a team got her out—was not her reality. Determined, she seeks to find the man she knows only as John.

John is back home. Back to his church. Back to his sermons. But thinking about Christine almost constantly. He doesn’t understand why the op turned so rotten but knows Christine thrives from watching her interviews. John simmers that they called him back in for this action, because when he became a Christian, he turned his back on his previous occupation, that of an assassin.

Christine thinks constantly about the mysterious John and calls in some markers to find him. In the pulpit one Sunday, John looks out and sees Christine. Then follows the shortest sermon ever. He agrees to talk with her, get it over with, get her out of his life.

But good intentions seldom work out for a man like John—especially when a woman like Christine entrances him. And we’re off and running on another mad chase, including one where John and his pursuer fight on the top of a moving train. Huff tells the battle in interminable, unprobable detail, excessive description being one of the few weaknesses in his writing. He spins a good yarn, though, especially if you like action/adventure. You’ll want to get this book—four stars.

Andrew Huff’s background intrigues me. Presently he holds the position of product director at Igniter Media, one of the largest church media companies in the US. He served as a youth pastor and a creative arts pastor. Now a new endeavor occupies some of his time–trying his hand at writing an action/adventure series.

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Science in Religion degree from Liberty University and a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife presently live in Plano, Texas. Learn more at andrewhuffbooks.com

Kregel Publications gave me a copy of A Cross to Kill, but I was in no way obligated to write a review. I am an Amazon Associate, so if you click on one of the links and purchase this book, I may get a small commission.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,183 reviews36 followers
December 8, 2019
Wow, this was a thrilling book! Ironically, it didn't have my heart pounding as much as some others, but it certainly kept me engaged and turning the page, to the tune of staying up late and reading in the pew before church service started :)

John's struggle to reconcile his past with his gift of the present was very humanizing. With his talents, he could come off as sort of a super-man, like say Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt. Giving him that internal struggle, his goal of atoning somehow for what he has done. Which perfectly leads to discussions of Christ atoning and Him alone because we can't make up for our mistakes.

There is a scene of great forgiveness that was one of my favorite parts! No one is beyond God's saving grace while they still have breath in them.

A lot of this book is quick-paced action which was a little hard to follow. I can't watch those kinds of scenes in movies (it hurts my head) and in books I just have trouble getting all the details, but I got the gist of things.

There are a few funny lines thrown into the mix of action that had me actually laughing out loud. Faith is just sort of woven around, in and out of the scenes, and the one "dedicated" scene is brief, but I liked how the character put things, "There's reading the Bible, then there's reading the Bible. If you're looking for answers to questions like 'What job should I have?' or 'Can I get a tatoo?' you wont' find them. What you will find is better than answers. It's a story. A story about the answer, not answers." That's a really good way to put it.

I didn't suspect .

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series.
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