Elysium Tide

Reviewed by:

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


Elysium Tide


James R. Hannibal



Publication Date:

June 7, 2022




344 pages


Peter Chesterfield doesn’t realize how much of a workaholic he’s become until he snaps at one of his assistants in the operating room. Sent from London for a long conference on Maui so he can de-stress and think about his next move, he feels bored out of his mind. Then, one night as he’s walking along the beach, he finds a teenage girl left for dead. His attempts to resuscitate her fail, but he gets enough details from local detective Lisa Kealoha to start tracing the girl’s killer himself. Lisa isn’t sure what to think of this prickly British neurosurgeon, but Peter quickly proves his uses. As it becomes clear that the person behind the killing may be connected to Lisa’s family, and to a vicious Los Angeles gang that’s expanding to the island, they will need all the help they can give each other.

James R. Hannibal has shown himself to be a clever craftsman when it comes to combining high tension and interesting semi-futuristic tech, in technothrillers like The Griffin Heist and The Paris Betrayal. This book sees him working in a more grounded setting. There are discussions about a theoretical high-density carbon item that scientists have dubbed Elysium (which as is tradition, will mean more than you think by the end). However, he embeds this once futuristic element in a very relatable story about forensics and police investigations on Maui. He proves to be just as good at doing the CSI-style thriller as he is at Michael Crichton-style thrillers. The plot provides the usual formula, from the slightly weird forensic technician to the surprise shootout(s), but with some surprising crinkles of originality.

For one thing, he makes the island setting believable. Much of the story hinges on local agriculture, and the eclectic mix of Christianity and traditional indigenous beliefs that permeate the island’s culture. He captures that awkward relationship that the island has with mainland U.S.A. (big American businesses provide jobs or can take jobs, and California is just close enough that its crime and drug problems could trickle down any time).

For another, Hannibal finds clever ways to change the stakes. This isn’t an investigation happening in a major U.S. city; it happens on an island where the police don’t have boats and their one air support is a helicopter they share with the fire department. Lisa and her colleagues must rely on human relationships just as much as whatever the eccentric forensic expert can collect in his crime scene bags.

Hannibal also pulls off the tricky “amateur helping out the cops” move. Even in the Golden Age of Detective Fictions, the idea of amateurs helping the police or beating the police to the punch could come across as silly (Raymond Chandler mocks it in his classic essay “The Simple Art of Murder”). In a modern setting, where police and civilians trust each other much less than in the 1930s, the concept can seem even hokier unless it’s done well. Hannibal is careful to make his amateur sleuth eccentric enough that the police don’t immediately like him, yet he’s gifted in a way that they definitely need. Peter Chesterfield has some of the acerbic atheism and grumpiness of Dr. Gregory House, but more likable (and with a military background that explains why he can handle himself so well in police combat situations). Lisa is believable as the policeman who doesn’t let Peter off easy when he makes truly amateur moves, but she warms up enough to him to trust him. The hints of romance, which will presumably be expanded on in sequels, makes sense. These characters may be an odd couple, but they’re an odd couple where each has strengths the other doesn’t, and neither lets the other get away with being ridiculous.

All told, it’s a rip-roaring adventure story from a writer at the top of his game.


Rating (1 to 5 stars):

5 stars

Suggested Audience:

Christian Fiction thriller fans who enjoy CSI/NCIS-style murder investigations, with a tropical island setting.

Christian Impact:

The religious content is handled a bit better than it usually is in a Christian fiction thriller. As you’d expect in this kind of novel, the arrogant surgeon is an atheist who bristles at talk about prayer and God. Initially, some of his discussions with religious locals feel cliché, but the story keeps the standard issue “come to faith” dialogue to a minimum. Ultimately, Chesterfield’s journey from skepticism to seeking is a combination of these occasional discussions and the things he experiences on the island. The balance between characters and events bringing about a change feels more natural than the usual approach.


Note: ECLA Readers who enjoy this book may also enjoy:






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