Cleansed by Fire: Author: James R. Callan
Smoldering embers of ashes fill the air darkening the sky and float into the black clouds caused by the streaks of flashing red flames that radiate throughout the outer perimeter of what was a magnificent structure. Nostrils filled with the smell of sulfur, the sky and the night air lit up with orange and red flames spreading so fast, engulfing the structure and swallowing it whole leaving darkness and soot in its wake. As the arsonist enters the next victim or structure, chooses his mode of accelerant and the pours it on the floor, standing back to admire his handiwork never showing one shred of remorse or caring for human life or the sanctity of the churches he decided to destroy. A simple match- struck, a piece of paper that will swallow up the flame when barely touching its surface and the explosion that follows leaving the entire room, building appearing like a huge orange and yellow ball but not one that anyone would want to touch or play with.
Father Frank DeLuca receives congregants daily and welcomes them to come to the confessional and ask for forgiveness for their sins. What happens when someone confesses to a murder or crime that he has committed or has knowledge of and you are bound by confidentiality to keep the person’s words silent and to yourself? What happens when one young man, one parishioner, confesses to knowing who set fire to the Pine Valley Baptist Church and asks the Father to forgive him for his sins and what he knows? Should his hands be tied? What if he could prevent another tragedy by someone leaking the information to the police? What is morally and ethically correct?
Close your eyes- Can you see the red and orange flames spread over this once magnificent church? Can you hear the choir singing their hymns? Can you smell the scent of the rotting wood, pine and materials that were used to build this structure? Feel the intensity of the heat filling that already humid air and hope that it does not ignite any trees and cause some wild fires. Receiving confession and being absolved of your sins is almost that a criminal being granted immunity when they commit a crime? What about someone who could prevent one?
The Prince of Peace Church is one whose parishioners work with young youths, teens to foster better character development, teach sportsmanship, encourage creativity and keep competition at a minimum. Many of the congregants have special talents that they are willing to share with the teens and when Father DeLuca asks Georgia Peitz to tactfully volunteer her help with the new choir she is more than happy to agree. Popsters is the name of the choir and the enthusiasm the teens that signed up to become part of it need to be organized, motivated and led by someone who understands music, has patience and enjoys working with teens. The woman in charge named Phyllis is really kind and sweet but totally disorganized but with the welcomed help of Georgia and her own husband Roger things get off to a really positive start. With the choir on its way to success and the basketball teams reorganized beginning the new season of Three Summer B-Ball, the focus should have been on working with these teens but the Father was worried about something else. Teens are often, if not properly guided to find ways of making money, getting involved with the wrong people and enticed by big cars, money and the promise of more for either using or selling drugs. A black Trans Am seems to be lurking around at every basketball practice and when the Father tries to approach the person behind the wheel the confrontation will let the reader know there is much more to come and it will not be good. Cleansed by Fire: James R. Callan: Teens, church groups, teachers, YA’s, fiction lovers and firefighters this one is for you.
When the Calvert Road Baptist Church is burned and Father DeLuca sees it the author shares the heartache, the sadness and the history behind the church with the reader. When he meets with the Reverend of that church he extends a welcome mat to him and his congregants to use his church if they have to showing one more side of this amazing man.
Father Frank was a man of morals and virtue and after seeing the devastation at both churches feelings of guilt enveloped him thinking there was some way he could have prevented the inevitable from happening. Realizing that the confession came from a teen, he decides to use that as the basis for his sermon hoping to encourage them to make better choices and not fall prey to peer pressure. What a great way to teach character education and encourage kids not to succumb to bullies.
But, the confrontation with the man in the black car did bring some results as the police detective in the area questioned the boys on the basketball team along with the father and certain information is brought to light. Then, one young man comes forward with some information that would send the Father to investigate what might be a lead to who is behind the fires and why this man in the black Trans-Am is lurking around wanting in on the drug action in the area. But, when he gets too close, frequents a bar named the Corral what happens next alerts the reader that the Father is in real danger and more than just his tires getting punctured and the firebug in the bar burning a piece of paper shaped like a cross, might be in store for him. With the help of Detective Mike Oakley the Father hopes to find out even more.
Then an encounter with a young man named B.D., the father of the boy who confessed, four slashed tires and Father Frank begins to assess all of the evidence, the incidents and tries to connect the matchsticks that might have caused the fires, the knife that slashed his tires and the hope that all of the pieces will solder together and not create more tragedy. Then the same young man admits knowing that there is going to be another fire and Father Frank needs to decide what to do. The seal of the confessional is sacred but talking to someone else might create a solution that would ease the pain. But, which church was next and how to alert the other Fathers and Reverends without telling what he knows? After meeting with the Monsignor he gets a different perspective and figures out how to use what he learned before the confession to relate to the police hoping to stop the next fire from happening. So, is the father of the person who confessed? Is the bad man into drugs? What about B.D.? Could it be someone hiding in plain sight? Then another fire and Father Frank rushes to the scene. Warned by the police to stay out of their way his guilt and strong feelings to solve the crime and prevent more fires wins out. But, this time it is more than just a fire, it is murder too as a body is found in the burning inferno too scorched to immediately identify. Three churches within the same vicinity would Prince of Peace be next?
Then we get to know Georgia better and within the sadness comes some joy as she and the police detective seem to connect and the teens in the choir come together to try and help raise funds to help rebuild churches that were burned. But, Father Frank is relentless and a link between the murdered man and one man from the community just might ignite a spark to solve the crime. But, will it before someone else or another church burns?
Author James. M. Callan brings to light many important issues that teens face today besides, drugs, peer pressure and school. The teens in this story prove that good character education, wholesome summer programs and working together for the community and for more than just the greater good are vital lessons that teens can learn from reading this book as well as the way the author handles the dating question between Georgia and Mike will allow young teens to realize the proper meaning of the word Date.
Things begin to move in a different direction as the man in the black car drops off on B.D. who overdosed on the Father’s doorstep letting him decide whether he lives or dies. Next, an encounter with the paper burner will definitely bring a smile and a special prayer for our Father to your lips. What happens next will definitely surprise you as the pieces will start to fall into place and the arsonist revealed?
Just who committed the murder and who burned the churches you will have to learn for yourself. How all of the four suspects tie together and what happens to the young man who confessed, what about B.D. I promised I would not tell. Child abuse is something no young boy or girl should endure and parents should not turn a blind eye. Just how this fits into to the entire plot and the surprise ending with its special twist that you will never expect, read Cleansed by Fire and find out just how important and powerful the word Forgiveness is as author James. M. Callan and his cast of outstanding characters will teach you the reader and many others just how important it is to have faith.
Fran Lewis: reviewer
Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLDEN STARS