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Book Review

Cross-Check by Phil Lollar has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the “Blackgaard Chronicles” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Dr. Regis Blackgaard exhibits immense frustration that Richard Maxwell was expelled from Campbell County Community College. He wanted him to obtain John Avery Whittaker’s computer program Applesauce. Maxwell assures Blackgaard and Philip Glossman, Blackgaard’s cohort, that those computers couldn’t access Applesauce when he tried.

Maxwell thinks he knows a better way to get Applesauce. The Odyssey Retirement Home violates current city building codes. One resident is Mary Hooper, who despises her son-in-law, Bob Mansfield. Bob is the owner of Mansfield Computers. He doesn’t want his mother-in-law evicted so she’d have to live with his family. Blackgaard, Maxwell and Glossman blackmail Mansfield into selling his business property and leaving behind some valuable and essential computer equipment

Once Blackgaard takes possession of the Mansfield Computer property, he searches for a concealed door behind the wall of the storage room. He plans to convert the room into a secret laboratory and use the hidden tunnel connecting him to Whit’s End. The cover for this sinister operation is a new Odyssey business, Blackgaard’s Castle.

The town councilmen, however, cannot agree upon granting Blackgaard a business license. Tom Riley, in particular, thinks it would be imprudent without further details. Whit intervenes and proposes a postponement of the vote so Blackgaard can present a more detailed business plan. The council agrees on this compromise. Blackgaard and Glossman decide Whit and Tom must not be present for the official vote.

Connie Kendall struggles with whether enough time has past since Whit fired her for her to amiably return to Whit’s End. Maxwell goes to Whit’s End and meets Lucy, a frequenter of the shop. Lucy seems taken with Maxwell.

Eugene and Maxwell, once co-workers who both faced termination from the college due to Maxwell’s dishonest activity, reconnect. But Eugene doesn’t trust Maxwell. Connie enters and finds Maxwell poking around behind the counter. Thinking he must be a new employee, Connie feels stung but not compared to how she feels when Eugene, who was also fired from Whit’s End with Connie, emerges from the back room.

Lucy interrupts the awkward encounter by requesting Eugene’s assistance. He makes a hasty exit. This marks their first interaction since Connie sent Lucy home from camp early for disregarding the rules. As Connie and Maxwell leave, Whit and Tom enter. Neither talks about her firing.

Connie agrees to meet Blackgaard in the hopes of getting a job at his new establishment. Once they meet, Blackgaard and Maxwell question Connie about Applesauce. She leaves.

Whit and Tom discuss the council meeting. Then Whit expresses his desire for Connie to prove that she understands the reason he let her go before he offers her another position. Both men agree to pray.

As Maxwell waits for Lucy at Whit’s End, he thinks about his difficult past, which Blackgaard’s aggression has brought back to the surface. He suffered through his parents’ divorce, neglect, abandonment and exposure to and encouragement in criminal activity. These recollections give him a new determination to beat Blackgaard at his own game in order to protect others. To do so, he must continue to play along.

When Lucy enters, Maxwell asks for her assistance. He experiences a prick of conscience for using her, but dismisses it as an essential step in her ultimate protection. Lucy also experiences a flare of conscience when Maxwell asks her to lie. She ultimately decides that lying to help Connie regain her position will go a step beyond merely apologizing for her own behavior at camp.

The next day, Lucy calls Connie’s mother and informs her that Whit wants Connie to meet him right away. After hanging up, Lucy delivers a note to Whit, in which Connie supposedly requests Whit to meet her at 10:30 am — the same time as the council’s vote on Blackgaard’s new business.

Whit and Connie meet, each assuming that the other initiated the conversation. They reconcile and uncover Lucy’s odd orchestration of the entire ordeal. They then see smoke coming from Tom Riley’s property and rush to help.

Though Blackgaard wanted Maxwell to burn down Tom Riley’s barn to prevent his presence at the vote, Maxwell uses kerosene to ignite a pile of debris instead. When his shirt catches on fire, however, Maxwell desperately flings it off of himself and into Tom’s barn.

Maxwell races to fill a bucket with water, hoping to prevent lasting damage. Tom rushes to smother the flames with a fire extinguisher just as the kerosene bottle explodes, knocking Tom unconscious and Maxwell backward. Connie and Whit hasten to revive Tom and rescue the horses as Maxwell flees. In the absence of Tom and Whit, the council votes to approve Blackgaard’s request for a business license.

Christian Beliefs

Tom Riley names his horses after Laban’s daughters, Leah and Rachel. Whit references the account of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17 and suggests that Tom ought to surrender his battle to the Lord, as David did.

Both men agree to pray about their respective issues. Connie utters a brief prayer, asking for Tom’s safety when she and Whit discover him unconscious by his burning barn.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Mansfield, his wife and their children have a difficult relationship with his mother-in-law. Connie turns to her mother for help and advice when discerning what she ought to do to repair her relationship with Whit. Whit waits for Connie to initiate the conversation about her dismissal and show that she understands the purpose of it before he rehires her.

Maxwell reveals that his mother divorced his father after he withdrew from his family in favor of his career. After she introduced a pseudo-father-figure back into their lives through her boyfriend, Brownlow, the man taught both Maxwell and his younger sister, Rachael, scams and cons, deeming them “survival tools.” Maxwell warns his mother of Brownlow’s character and returns to his father, who abandons him.

But his father does provide the funds for Maxwell to attend school, so Maxwell moves to Odyssey. His mother and sister eventually find him after Brownlow is unfaithful. But his mother soon abandons both children. Maxwell does his best to care for his wayward sister.


Maxwell mentions a time when Blackgaard kidnapped him. Maxwell commits arson on Tom’s property and accidentally burns down Tom’s barn. Kerosene explodes and knocks Tom unconscious.


Maxwell observes Brownlow embrace and kiss an unknown woman while Brownlow is still seeing his mother.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 and up


Phil Lollar






Record Label



A Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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