The Gryphon Heist (Clandestine Service #1)

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


The Gryphon Heist (Clandestine Service #1)


James R. Hannibal



Publication Date:

September 2019




400 pages


Talia Inger has worked hard to put her foster care past behind her and become the CIA’s next shining star. When her first assignment takes her to Moldova to play guard dog at a weapons firm, she wonders if her superiors are taking her seriously. Next thing she knows, elite weapon designs have been stolen. One of her assets, Adam Tyler, offers his help organizing a team to steal the designs back. But can Tyler deliver on what he promises?

Techno-thrillers are a particularly hard genre. Writers have to be as technically accurate as possible about the gadgets and tools used, without bogging the reader down in too many details. Hannibal hits the right balance, partly by making each character colorful in different ways. Talia and her co-conspirators would be entertaining to read about in any format, and Hannibal gives them a worthy adventure to take part in. The weapon designs, which serve as the story’s “MacGuffin,” present a threat which thriller fans will be familiar with (“we find this or the capital will be dust in…”). However, Hannibal doesn’t settle for a MacGuffin which readers would find in other thriller novels; no neutron bombs, bio-weapons, or computer viruses here. He gives his characters something a little more exotic, twisting the formula to make it more exciting than usual. All told, this novel’s thriller elements are quite exceptional.

The novel’s spiritual ideas are another matter. Much like James Rubart’s 2018 novel The Man He Never Was, Hannibal creates a subplot where the hero realizes someone is manipulating them, and the manipulation forces the hero to face past wounds. Espionage stories are great territory for reconciliation themes, and in theory Hannibal’s concept should work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pan out.

For starters, the reconciliation doesn’t feel plausible. It may be normal for Christian Fiction novels to have pivotal scenes where characters trade Bible quotes and then someone breaks down crying and yells “I forgive you!” That doesn’t change the fact those scenes always feel forced, an attempt to make the reconciliation really clear to readers. On top of that, Hannibal’s hero must forgive an especially heinous offense, so it would make much more sense for her to give reluctant or qualified forgiveness, leaving room for reconciliation in a sequel.

Secondly, readers are supposed to believe the manipulator (who is explicitly described as a Christian) is justified. It may be justifiable to lie and manipulate in the service of one’s country (or when God deliberately tells someone to do so, as in some Old Testament stories). Lying and manipulating for personal reasons carries a very different connotation, crossing moral barriers that Christians aren’t supposed to cross. Perhaps Hannibal could have made this work in a fable or fairytale; those stories often have ambiguous figures (fairies, godfathers, wizards) who push the heroes toward growth. But The Gryphon Heist isn’t fantasy; it’s a techno-thriller, a subgenre which demands the characters and plots be as realistic as possible. Consequently, the manipulation just comes across as an insincere attempt to avoid revenge.

Tacked-on themes aside, Hannibal delivers a powerful thriller and a start to what looks to be a fantastic series.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

3.5 stars

Suggested Audience

The author recommends this book for women who like suspense, but it’s well written enough that it will appeal to any Christian readers who enjoy a well-plotted spy thriller.

Christian Impact

Hannibal aims for noble themes about reconciliation, forgiveness and healing from terrible trauma. The themes don’t sell as well as they should, but he produces some incredible images of what it feels like to feel trauma and regret.


Readers seeking more adventures may want to check out the sequel, Chasing the White Lion (Revell, March 2020).

The Gryphon Heist (Talia Inger, #1)


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