This is the fourth book in Peretti’s Cooper Adventures series and after this one he took a seven year break, so this was probably originally intended to be the conclusion of the series and the ending is a bit different, I think, because of this. This book is different from the others. The others all were sort of good vs. evil fights and either included or else seemed to include supernatural elements with a horror tinge, curses, evil spirits, dark gods, etc. This one is more of a rollicking adventure. Jake Cooper’s daughter Lila is traveling on a government cargo flight, but when the plane is attacked by mercenaries after a secret weapons pod on board, things go south. Lila ends up locked inside the watertight weapons pod at the bottom of the sea. Everyone’s after this pod; Russian agents, money-hungry mercenaries, Philippine rebels, etc. But no one cares about Lila, so the Coopers had better find the pod first if they want to save her life. There’s even the added layer of the U.S. Government who would rather destroy the pod than see it fall into enemy hands. It’s an interesting plot layer to see the Coopers having to battle their own government and military in this book; most children’s books of this ilk would portray the government as completely heroic. So, no hidden tombs or spooky corpses, just machine gun battles, speedboat chases, deep sea divers clashing, etc. This one has a pretty strong moralizing streak to it as it finally deals with the death of Jay & Lila’s mother explicitly and it explores the anger Lila feels towards her father as she’s trapped in the pod in a kind of, for this kind of book, subtle call-back to Jonah and his soul-searching in the belly of the whale. Jake Cooper gets his own emotional journey as he realizes he’s been starting to blame God for his wife’s death. Anyway, this is all very tidily resolved, but the effort is appreciated. A romantic subplot between Jake and tough-as-nails reporter Megan Flaherty is less appreciated and leads to a cringe inducingly saccharine ending. A fairly good ending to the series; it’s mainly as good as it is because it’s so radically different from the previous books in the series. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – fourth book in series changes tone drastically from horror-thriller to action-adventure to mixed effects; effort to deepen characters is appreciated. 2 ½ stars.