Best known in the Christian music industry for his production and instrumental involvement in the development of the career of musician/artist Rich Mullins, Reed Arvin recently released his sophomore novel, The Will, through Scribner Publishing. Arvin, who began his career as a musician for four years in Amy Grant’s band, released The Wind in the Wheat in 1996, which focused on the Christian music community and received strong reviews, establishing Reed as a respected new author.
In his second endeavor, Reed tackles several subjects. On the surface, The Will is a book about murder, greed, and corruption in a small town, as well as the mystery surrounding the relationship between the town’s oddest occupant and its wealthiest citizen. On a deeper level, it deals with the protagonist’s loss of faith after the senseless deaths of his parents.
Henry Matthews is the young man in question, an ambitious young lawyer on the fast track at his Chicago law firm. However, prior to enrolling in law school, Henry was a seminary student who quit three weeks before the end of the first year after the untimely death of his parents. He is summoned back to his hometown, Council Grove, Kansas, to execute the will of the richest man in town who equals Mr. Potter of Bedford Falls fame in ruthless greed. The tycoon has a surprising quirk of conscience that causes him to leave most of his fortune to the town oddball, a delusional recluse known as the “Birdman.”
What follows is a legal thriller which aspires to a Grisham-like quality as Henry pits his knowledge against the dangerous, dark secrets his hometown harbors. His passion for the truth (“the truth shall set you free” is one of the recurring themes of the book) finds Henry following somewhat unwillingly in his own father’s footsteps. Like unpeeling the layers of a proverbial onion, Henry peels back the layers of Council Grove history, peels back the defensive layers of madness the Birdman has erected around himself, and peels back the layers of anger, doubt and lack of faith in his own heart.
The press release sent to Christian media states, “As THE WILL grapples with life issues and speaks from Arvin’s heart, the true message of his Christian faith in a real, culturally relative manner, a message reached out that cannot be ignored throughout the entirety of THE WILL…”
While the book’s plot is suspenseful and meaty, and the passages well written, Arvin falls short of revealing “the true message of his Christian faith” choosing instead to sink to the lower level of the “culturally relative manner.” Henry Matthews does choose truth over wealth and power, and he begins a tentative, questioning relationship with God again. However, his character began by having a passionately lustful affair with a driven professional beauty, and by the end of the book, regardless of his new-found faith, Matthews still does not remember enough from his seminary days, nor is he imbued by Arvin with any discipline in his relationship with the attractive, and extremely politically correct, ecologically crusading female lead, Amanda. After a short friendship/courtship he lands her in bed. The message seems to clearly be that the fact he might love her makes this extra-marital coupling much deeper and more meaningful than the recreational sex (and yes, he uses the “f”-word) that went on at the law firm. Perhaps this is culturally relevant; it does little to reveal the true message of the Christian faith, however.
As a legal thriller, The Will, is a well-developed, above average book, but as an opportunity to develop a character that has more than a passion for the truth and for pretty women, the book falls short.


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