Ted Dekker Generally:
The first book I read by Ted Dekker was Thr3e, which I enjoyed thoroughly from start to end. But then it felt like Dekker hit a dry spell. I read House which he had co-authored with Frank Peretti1Peretti is probably my favorite fiction writer, especially in the Christian genre. He, however, also disappointed me first with Monster and then with House. and it disappointed thoroughly. House seemed to lack real story (as most horror does) and focused on an extremely fragmented narrative.2By this I mean the book is told in small segments, swapping back and forth between characters, times, places, etc. This is fine when done in moderation (e.g. one chapter about one character, the next about another), but when it becomes pervasive it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I consider it an artificial method of creating a driving thriller. Instead of real substance one breaks up the story in a way that feels “fast-paced” but if placed in order would simply feel simplistic and dull.
After that it was Showdown and Saint (The Paradise Series), both of which I found somewhat boring – probably due to the imaginative storyline which felt just a bit too fantastical for my tastes. I picked up Obsessed but never was obsessed with it and haven’t finished it yet (not sure if I will). I’d heard good things about his Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, and White) but have avoided them out of my distaste for The Paradise Novels.
I stopped by the library recently and picked up two of his latest – Skin and Adam. I read Skin first. I was solidly disappointed yet again. I was tempted to just return Adam without even a second glance. I’m not trying to say Dekker’s books where awful – they weren’t – they were okay, good, average. They just weren’t great and I have a reading list a mile long. I decided to give it a try anyways – a few pages, then put it aside. Dekker grabbed me in the first several pages and wouldn’t let me go. Wow! By the end Charity had joined me and we were reading the story together. We both agreed that it was his most mature work to date. In fact, I would consider it a masterpiece in its genre.
Daniel Clark works for the FBI and is hunting down a mysterious serial killer known only as “Eve” for taking innocent women and murdering them via a lethal biological injection. Clark has been hard on Eve’s trail for a long time and has lost his marriage over his obsession to catch Eve. Now it seems that Clark is finally getting close, but Eve outsmarts him again – shooting him in the head and killing him. Miraculously, Clark is resuscitated, but not without losing his memory of the killer’s face. The key to capturing this devious criminal is locked in his damaged mind.
Okay, so the storyline isn’t perhaps all that different from any number of other crime thrillers, or for that matter many of Dekker’s other stories – but the execution is flawless. Dekker interweaves the current narrative of the serial killer chase with fictitious newspaper articles written after the case describing the evolution of Alex Price (Eve) from a man into a killer.
There are only so many times one can read a crime thriller. They pretty much have the same narrative structure and storyline – bad guy kills people, bad guy gets caught. Flesh it out and you have your story. So how does one separate oneself from the masses? Dekker does it (and rightly so) by asking deeply philosophical (and theological) questions via his narrative3He does this in some of his other novels, but generally I have found the execution flawed with the exception of Thr3e and Adam., specifically, “What is it that causes an individual to become a serial killer? Is one born as such or bred as such? Can a good man become a bad one?” This questions can be asked in a heavy-handed manner that demands a certain pathway be followed and fails to truly explore the questions and accept the unanswered dimensions, but Dekker succeeds in asking these questions in a way that feels real and authentic.
If you are looking for a thrilling read, Adam is a great place to look. I have read few books that have grabbed me in such a firm way – and that I look back on with deep thoughts. I think the question of the darkest edges of humanity (e.g. serial killers) fascinates us because we believe at some point that it gives us insight into the whole of humanity. We want to understand how we can aberrate so far – we want to find an answer. Dekker encourages us to search our souls for the right answers.4This book is not a pure criminal thriller. If you want to get an idea of the secret twist (which makes the story even more frightening) click here, it’ll take you to a book referenced in the novel that is tightly intertwined with the plot – but warning – its a spoiler!