The Barnes & Noble Review
In his debut novel, Rising Phoenix, Kyle Mills introduced wild-card FBI agent Mark Beamon, a man who never does things strictly by the book. In Storming Heaven, the compulsively readable follow-up, Mills firmly establishes himself as a top writer of thrillers in the company of Thomas Harris and Ridley Pearson.
Jennifer Davis, a bit of a wild card herself, has just finished a grueling bike race. Her parents have cheered her on, and even the neighbors have arrived to support her. She has all the usual teenage problems, including a boyfriend her parents don't really approve of, while they pressure her to like the neighbors' doltish, football-playing son. After dinner, Jennifer and her family return to their beautiful home in Flagstaff, Arizona, only to have a night of terror ahead of them. When Jennifer takes one step into the dark house, she hears her father shout for her to run away. As she enters, she beholds a gruesome scene. Strangers have guns to her parents' heads. Soon, her mother and father are dead, and the strangers who have orchestrated their deaths come for her.
For Mark Beamon, FBI agent, this is very nearly business as usual. He's dealt with kidnappings before, but what makes this one unusual is that he's very quickly aware that there's some choreography in this kidnapping-murder scenario. Beamon has instincts for the offbeat, and he detects what's wrong with this picture right away. The crime scene looks as if Jennifer's parents may have killed themselves. But why? In investigating, he finds that the missing Jennifer was adopted by the Davises, after her natural parents died in a fire when she was two. Further complicating the issue, no one in Jennifer's general vicinity seems to know anything. Who would murder the Davis couple? And why take Jennifer afterward, when there was no hope of ransom with the parents dead?
The trails to discovery seem to be leading toward dead ends, until Beamon locates Jennifer's biological uncle, who has presumably not seen her since she was two years old. Living in a ramshackle pile in the middle of a Utah nowhere, he is a convicted child molester who seems to have secrets to protect. As Beamon gets closer to the truth about Jennifer's family, he finds a whole new world opening up beneath him. An organized religious cult, the Church of the Evolution, somehow plays into the fate of Jennifer and her parents. But this "church" has strong political power, even in Washington, and Beamon soon learns that to find Jennifer, he must go up against some incredibly powerful people. Beamon steps all too quickly into a horrifying world of religious fanatics and end-of-the-world plots, his only goal being to rescue a young girl who plays a role that even she doesn't understand. The story is tense, and the stakes are high. But at the heart of this nightmare is Jennifer Davis herself, who must do everything she can to survive her abductors.
Kyle Mills is a major talent, and Storming Heaven is both a terrific entertainment and a story of sharp twists, turns, and mysteries. If you want high-octane thrills, then grab a copy. (Douglas Clegg)
Douglas Clegg is the author of numerous horror and suspense novels, including The Halloween Man and Bad Karma, written under his pseudonym Andrew Harper.
Kyle Mills is a writer to watch.
In a world of political thrillers, I have the feeling that young Kyle Mills will soon be a very big player.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A heart-pounding thriller that moves with the speed of an out-of-control luge on a downhill run.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This formulaic second novel starring maverick FBI agent Mark Beamon (after Rising Phoenix, 1997) suffers from contrived plotting, ponderous pacing and lapses of credibility. Now exiled to the rural environs of the Arizona bureau office, Beamon is called off the golf course to investigate what initially seems to be the murder of a couple by their disappeared teenaged daughter; although no federal crime is suggested until well into the investigation, G-man Beamon doesn't let details like jurisdiction bother him. And as it happens, young suspect Jennifer Davis has been kidnapped by the Kneissians, a sort of Mooney-like PTL Club, because she is in actuality the granddaughter of the sect's patriarch. The old man is dying, and he plans for her to take his place. However, his surrogate daughter, Sara, has other plans, and she uses the church's millions of members, billions of dollars and tentacular reaches into the highest levels of government and finance to ensure her own rise to power. All of which we know long before Beamon agonizingly figures it out. Suspended and thereby free to "break the rules," Beamon pursues Jennifer's kidnappers through the snowy streets of Flagstaff, with far-fetched strokes of luck and acts of derring-do better suited to old cop shows than to a novel. Shot through with clich s, inane dialogue and unnecessary accounts of Beamon's propensity for strong drink and tobacco, the novel slips along to a highly predictable conclusion. Rights, William Morris Agency. (Aug.)
After the success of last year's Rising Phoenix, Mills returns with maverick FBI agent Mark Beamon, whose hunt for a kidnapped teenage girl is bringing him nothing but harassment.
A second novel thatþs several cuts above the average thriller, largely because it keeps to a human level and oils its wheels with immensely amusing non sequiturs. Once again, Mills (Rising Phoenix,1997) focuses on a quasi-religious group as a basis for the story's moral ambiguities. This time, it's the Church of the Evolution, whose 11 million clean-cut members parallel Scientology's in paying heavy dues to rise through stages and achieve jealously guarded top status as "clears." The group in this case is led not by L. Ron Hubbard but by the much more brilliant and human 80-year-old Albert Kneiss. Like Scientology, the Church has its so-called enemies in Germany, but here this is only a publicity ploy to attract Americans devoted to religious freedom. Kneiss, however, the messenger of God who returns to Earth every 2,000 years, is dyingþor rather ascending to Godþand a replacement leader is needed. This turns out to be Kneiss's long-hidden granddaughter Jennifer Davis, whose mother is dead but who has been adopted by secret Church members Eric and Patricia Davis. All along, the Church's business and membership sides have been run by Sara Renslier, Millsþs charismatic villain, who now has Jennifer kidnaped and her "parents" killed before her eyes. Investigating is Mark Beamon, a loose cannon FBI agent whoþs been given a post in Flagstaff to run. Overweight, overdrinking Beamon is no beauty but has a very heady IQ and the highest success rate in the Bureau for solving kidnapings. Now, though, he finds himself up against an organization with fantastic powers, with members (like the Mormons) everywhereþin Congress, the Bureau, the police. Soon, his creditcards are turned to zilch, his every move dogged, a painful rumor is spread that heþs a child molester, and news stories appear about his drinking. Even the Bureau's ready to crush him. Mills shapes his stereotypes with human clay, and excels at one-liners that quickly draw a reader into his spirited storytelling.
Read an Excerpt
A Tragic Heart Attack At The Tender Young age of fifteen and a half, Jennifer Davis thought. That's what the headlines would say tomorrow.
She stood up on her pedals, but had to sit down again when the back wheelof her mountain bike lost traction. Less than halfway up the last climbof the race, her lungs already felt like they were full of hot tar. Worse,she could hear the unmistakable crunch of tires closing in on her from behind.
Jennifer glanced back over her shoulder, ignoring the flaring color of thesunset as the light filtered through the Phoenix smog, and focused on theface of the rider behind her.
The good news was that he looked like he was in bad shape. His mouth waswide open and, despite the dry cold of the desert, the sweat was literallystreaming off his nose.
The bad news was that she felt like he looked.
The angle of the hill eased off a bit and Jennifer stood up again. Thistime her tire held and she was able to accelerate slightly, struggling tostay out front.
The panting behind her grew louder as the rider began to close the distancebetween them. Jennifer grudgingly eased her bike right to allow a lane forhim to pass, and then dropped her head and pedaled with everything she had.
About twenty-five yards from the crest of the hill, when he was only inchesbehind, he gave up. She heard a gasped obscenity and the unmistakable clickof gears as he downshifted.
Jennifer remained standing, in case it was a trick or he got a second wind,but when she looked back again, he was off his bike, pushing it slowly upthe hill.
At the top of the climb, Jennifer leaned forward and rested her arms againsther handlebars. A small butenthusiastic crowd lined the narrow trail, andshe coasted carefully through them.
She could see her parents threading their way through the throng as shepassed under the checkered banner that announced the finish line. When herfather jogged up alongside her, she draped an arm around his shoulders andused him as a crutch as she slid off her bike and fell to the ground.
"Great job, Jen! I thought that guy was going to get you on the hill!"She closed her eyes and listened as her father picked up her bike and rolledit off the track.
"Honey? Are you all right?"
Jennifer opened her eyes and looked into the plump face of her mother hovering over her. "Fine, Mom. No problem." She turned to her father. "How'dI do, Dad?"
"Fourth place, looks like to me. Just out of the money."
Jennifer let out a low groan as she stood and began pushing her way throughthe crowd, shaking various hands and stopping briefly to talk and laughwith friends and other racers.
"We've got a surprise for you, honey," her father said as theybroke free of the crowd and headed for the parking lot. Jennifer slowedand then stopped. Her father just wasn't the no-specific-occasion gift-giving type. Surprises were usually a bad thing. Her eyes followed his outstretched index finger to a white Ford Explorer in the parking lot. Three people stood next to it. Two of the three were waving.
"Oh Dad. You didn't."
"What? The Taylors have really been looking forward to seeing you race."
Her mother smiled. "They really have, honey."
The Taylors had lived two doors down from them for as long as Jennifer couldremember. And for as long as she could remember, they and her parents hadbeen conspiring to get her together with Billy, the Taylors' football-playing, cheerleader-chasing, Budweiser-swilling moron of a son.
As they neared the parking lot, Mrs. Taylor rushed up to Jennifer with herarms flung wide. She thought better of the big hug she had undoubtedly beenplanning when she saw the amount of mud caked on Jennifer's jersey. Instead,she adjusted an imaginary flaw in her rather tall hair and opted for a distant peck on the cheek. "Wow, that was really impressive, Jennifer. Veryexciting." She turned to her semicatatonic son. "Wasn't it, Billy?"He snapped out of his stupor long enough to generate a weak smile.
There was a short lull in the conversation while everyone waited to seeif he would actually speak. When it became obvious that he wouldn't, herfather said, "We thought we'd go out and grab some dinner before wedrive back to Flagstaff. What do you think, Jen?"
"Are you kidding? Look at me!" Jennifer took off her helmet andheld her arms out to give him a better view. She was spattered head to toein mud. A gash above her knee, suffered on the first downhill of the race,was still oozing blood. And to top it off, her hair had taken on the shapeof her helmet.
Her father didn't look impressed. "We'll just tell them you were ina mountain bike race. They'll understand."
She assumed that "they" referred to the maitre d' of a really,really snooty restaurant, who would look at her like she was a homelessperson and then grudgingly get them a table because her father was the largest car dealer in Arizona.
Jennifer sighed and walked over to her parents' Cadillac. Leaning into theopen window, she pulled out a small backpack containing a change of underwear, a pair of shorts, and a sweatshirt.
"I'll be back in a minute," she said, walking toward a white vanwith "Specialized" painted in red across the side.