The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg flawlessly combines the best elements of a Tom Clancy political thriller with the spiritual warfare of Left Behind. Set in modern Iran, the book follows a wide cast ranging from Iranian Christians and CIA operatives to radical Muslims and Iranian nuclear scientists. Readers find themselves guessing at every turn, trying to unravel an intricate web of deception, alliances, and hidden agendas as the Iranian government works feverishly to develop weapons of mass destruction. Rosenberg has outdone himself with this novel. The action-packed plot sprints forward from the opening paragraph, and loses none of its intense drama and emotion as it continues. The book focuses primarily on David Shirazi, a Muslim-turned-agnostic who hunts terrorist leaders for the CIA. Undercover in Iran, he finds himself struggling to outwit and outgun a host of Iranian loyalists. Creating antagonists is where Rosenberg shines the most. He explores their motivations perfectly, showing an alien, distinctly Islamic culture while engaging the reader’s sympathy. As the nuclear tension rises, the longing to see these characters safe and forgiven grows almost unbearable. Even while crafting a realistic threat of annihilation, Rosenberg manages to keep the spiritual lives of his characters paramount.
Rather than rely solely upon imagination, Rosenberg brings elements of the real world into the plot. The frequent, factual prayers and references by Iranian leaders to the titular “Twelfth Imam” grow throughout the book from an interesting rumor into a thought-provoking reality. What would happen if this Islamic messiah actually appeared? Rosenberg is true to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:5 that “many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.” Yet, opposite this, there are additional reality-based themes including the massive, underground revival of the Iranian church. This sets off a chain of events that makes this novel as much a spiritual thriller as a political one. Characters race to discover the exact nature of the religious and militaristic threats facing them. The book’s climactic finale answers just enough questions to leave the reader satisfied, yet inwardly starving for the future books in the series.
The diverse characters in this novel cannot be justly summarized in only a few sentences. Individual lives are not perfect; rather, they experience all the physical, mental, and spiritual agonies of tragic lives. Nor is there any delusion that conversion will prevent pain. Their suffering is intense, deeply personal, and cuts sharply to the heart of the reader in unparalleled fashion. While Christian virtues are often ignored, there is a profound sadness when they are, as if the reader were experiencing the mind of Christ. Equally, there is an unparalleled lifting of the spirit when characters are moved by Jesus’ example.
The Twelfth Imam well deserves praise. Like Joel Rosenberg’s other novels, it reads like a narrative account of current events and is as educational as a nonfiction book. While it is moderately violent and contains a brief, suggestive scene, these elements are not graphic or distracting. For fans of thrillers, politics, current events, religion, or even novels in general, The Twelfth Imam cannot be missed! – Ryan Dennison, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
As the apocalyptic leaders of Iran call for the annihilation of Israel and the U.S., CIA operative David Shirazi is sent into Tehran with one objective: use all means necessary to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, without leaving American fingerprints and without triggering a regional war. At extreme personal risk, Shirazi executes his plan.
A native Farsi speaker whose family escaped from Iran in 1979, he couldn’t be better prepared for the mission. But none of his training has prepared Shirazi for what will happen next. An obscure religious cleric is suddenly hailed throughout the region as the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam. News of his miracles, healings, signs, and wonders spreads like wildfire, as do rumors of a new and horrific war.
With the prophecy of the Twelfth Imam seemingly fulfilled, Iran’s military prepares to strike Israel and bring about the End of Days. Shirazi must take action to save his country and the world, but the clock is ticking.