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Book Review of "Beyond Revelation", by John Hazen


Beyond Revelation by John Hazen is the third novel in his Francine Vega Investigative Thriller series. Told in the first person by Francine Vega, a TV journalist in New York City. She is as much a detective as she is a reporter.

Hazen makes this novel easy to enjoy as a stand-alone by having his protagonist give an intriguing glimpse into the series' first two installments. The back story also tempts readers to peruse the previous novels. Beyond Revelation opens with Francine expressing her emotional involvement with her family, her job, and previous experiences as an investigative journalist. The behind-the-scenes of news media, news programming, and the workings of a news network lead into the main plot.

Francine's friend Jonas, a black man, is concerned about his girlfriend, Eunice. She had gone to a small town in Massachusetts to help her cousin and his wife move into their new home. When Jonas could not reach her, he shares his worries with Francine. Concerned about her friend but always with an eye for a news story, Francine drives to this town where a reclusive religious compound called Beyond Revelation is located. To her horror, as she hunts for Eunice and her cousins, she finds a dead body in the woods, a belligerent police officer, and a religious doomsday cult. Hazen's narrative maintains a feeling of suspense as he weaves kidnapping, missing persons, murder, and terrorism into the plot.

The story is primarily told in convincing dialogue with various characters' personal backstories skillfully woven into the plot. Hazen's characters are believable, even having Francine questioning her own motives as in: "Was I an overly sentimental schmuck playing the eternal Pollyanna, hoping against hope that there's some good in everyone?" But her reporter's senses tingled with anticipation of an intriguing story. She asks her FBI Agent husband to follow the money. A Russian assassin upsets her household. A trip to Cuba adds intrigue, and the tension builds.

In addition to a well-crafted plot with relatable characters, the novel has several take-a-ways for aspiring journalists and watchers of the news media. Francine Vega's belief that truth is a journalist's best ally is the novel segue into the inclusion of today's relationship between politics and corrupt and fake news. Hazen makes clear that some reporters are publicity-seeking newshounds who manufacture stories to advance their own agenda. The overzealous journalist may use a source on an unrelated story. Francine's advice for new reporters is always to have a pad and pen or recorder available to take notes. You never know when a story will take place. Follow leads, collect clues, build the story.

Francine's and her husband's legacy for their children is "To be everything we could be, to see things through to the end." Hazen dedicates the book to his wife, Lynn, and "to those journalists who search for truth and hold our leaders accountable."


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