*I received a free copy of this novel, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.
When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil as local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters arrive on the scene.
As the search for the saboteurs heats up and the authorities question members of the cult, they uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.
In A Light in the Desert, Anne Montgomery steers the disparate lives of individual, damaged souls into a collision course in the unforgiving beauty of the Arizona desert landscape.
We follow an angry, hate-filled teen with a dangerous plan; a sniper suffering from PTSD and desperately trying to hold it together to do the right thing; and a pregnant girl, abused and discarded, and struggling to be treated as a competent adult when her Moebius Syndrome causes others to misjudge her abilities. Their paths collide with both disastrous and miraculous consequences, and a few twists along the road.
The tone is that of an action thriller, but I found the story to be more character driven, with the focus on exploring the main character’s thoughts, feelings and motivations as events unfold. Whilst based on the real event of the derailing of an Amtrak train in 1995, this is an intricate fictional story of various people whose lives were also derailed by the attack.
Obvious themes here are the horrors of war, and religious symbolism set alongside the violence and cruelty of reality in this world. There is also a thorough examination of the various ways in which humans are cruel – even inhumane – to each other. Some of the saints and sinners are obvious here, but the moral compass of others is more of a grey area: can a killer redeem themself by caring for tortured animals and lonely outcasts? With further societal issues about mental health, physical appearance, teen pregnancy, and child abuse all featuring, there is plenty going on here!
This novel is a well-written and thought-provoking read, which I recommend to anyone looking for a complex story about human nature.
The moonlight illuminated the desert floor as the boys walked along the tracks. A single voice, loud and brash, carried easily down the sandy wash and up the side of the ragged mound of basalt where the man lay hidden. Belly down on the jumble of volcanic rocks, he watched and listened, just like he’d been trained.
– Anne Montgomery, A Light in the Desert
A Light in the Desert is available on Amazon right now!