Billy Rivers’ Christian-oriented novel, Escape from Jonestown, takes private investigator Terrance Clark on a dangerous mission to South America. The journey not only challenges his survival skills but also the trust in God that he’d know as a preacher’s child — faith he had walked away from in college.
The book begins with the true account of the 1978 suicides by the Jim Jones cult in Guyana. Fictional private investigator Clark, 25, has infiltrated the cult in an attempt to find the daughter of clients from California. On the day of the suicides, Clark and a ten-year-old boy, Timmy, escape into the jungle, where they endure life-threatening situations. But the dangers of the jungle can’t compare with the plot twists that occur after they are rescued by friendly villagers: While seeking to save the village’s young widowed missionary, Rebekah Hamilton, from a questionable suitor, Clark makes a gruesome discovery.
This plot-driven narrative uses an omniscient viewpoint that allows readers insight into each character’s thoughts. To the author’s credit, its Christian message is not overpowering, but develops naturally as Clark witnesses Timmy’s and Rebekah’s trust in God through adverse situations.
Rivers’ strength is storytelling, and his descriptions, while not lyrical, effectively pull readers into the immediacy of the adventure. For example: “His foot came down not more than two feet from its heart-shaped head. With a blurring quickness, the snake curled back and struck at the intruder’s leg… Its two-inch fangs dug in hard.”
On the down side, previously presented knowledge is frequently repeated, slowing an otherwise fast-paced book. And at times the dialogue feels stiff and unnatural, (“Well, Timmy. I’m afraid we are sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. Behind us is a very large waterfall…”)
Despite such missteps, Rivers writes a rousing and believable tale that takes readers deep into the jungle and face to face with natural and human predators. The compelling storyline will inspire adventure-hungry readers to keep turning pages — and delivers a faith-based lesson that Christian readers will appreciate.
Also available as an ebook.