Started: October 2014
Finished: November 2014
Star Rating: 4/5
DOR's Review. [Contains Spoilers]
This book was sitting on my 'To Read' list for quite some time before I finally decided to finish up 'Demonkeeper' and get to it. First of all, this one is a little on the long side, for me at least, and it clocks in at just over four hundred pages. I'd heard great things about Ted Dekker prior to picking this up, and wasn't all too disappointed after I finished it. That said, it's an interesting and highly entertaining spin on the conventional thriller plot, which is all too often cut-and-pasted across many different authors and books these days.
To begin, this book tells the story of FBI agent Brad Raines and partner Nikki Holden tracking down a ruthless serial killer known only as the Bride Collector, who is ID'd early on (to the readers) as Quinton Gauld. Gauld's MO is draining the blood of his victims, all of whom are females, in order to kill them because supposedly they are favorites of God and must go to heaven to meet him. The first eighty or so pages go rather slow, but by the time all of our major characters make their entrance into the story things start to pick up. I myself was surprised when Gauld was brought in as the secondary POV for much of the story, as that's not usually the case in any genre where a singular villain is the focus of the story.
While there was nothing inherently wrong with the book itself, there was more than one point that had me scratching my head thinking "Why did he put that in here?". One of those points was when Brad suddenly found himself attracted to Paradise, the main female lead of the series and a longtime patient of the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a place that Brad and Nikki turn to early on to track a lead. They look to Paradise to tell them who killed the latest victim because, not kidding, she can see dead people and gain a clear vision of their last memories by touching them. Why the characters all seem perfectly comfortable with this after about two chapters and don't at all take it's validity into question is a mystery to me and is never quite explained, so maybe we should assume Dekker just got tired of keeping things realistic.
Back to the attraction thing, Paradise and Brad have virtually nothing in common, while it's established early on that he and Nikki are attracted to one another and have been for some time. That said, their relationship goes from borderline friends-with-benefits to more brother-sister-type about halfway through in favor of making Paradise and Brad's still non-existent and nonsensical romance the main focal point. And no, I don't mean main focal point behind the Bride Collector. By the 250-page mark or so, that's hardly even the secondary plot point anymore because Dekker seemed more interested in creating a love story than a thriller book. Luckily, the bad Romeo and Juliet story gets toned down after a few chapters and everyone gets back to the task at hand, which is finding the Bride Collector.
By the time Quinton is on his sixth bride, the FBI still has little to no idea who he is, which I found baffling. Sure, the guy doesn't leave all that much behind, but come on. He's murdered five people in the exact same state and you can't even find a TRACE of who he is? Even the most dimwitted of FBI agents could probably have found SOMETHING in the time these people have been bumbling around a mental health facility that may or may not have any connection to the story whatsoever. Oh wait, of course it does, because the characters have been here forever. It's around this time that Brad and Paradise get back into lovey-dovey mode, and so it's only fitting that we learn Quinton's sixth victim will be none other than Nikki, who has done little more than fill the void of "female extra" to this point anyway. Needless to say, she's killed so that we can see Brad have a mental breakdown over losing someone close to him, which is made worse because several years ago he lost his girlfriend to suicide. By the way, you'll be reminded of that fact about 2 million times over the course of the book, so that's why I didn't mention it until now. All of that aside, Nikki's capture to her discovery as a dead bride takes a couple chapters to map out and is actually one of the most suspenseful parts of the whole book, even if the outcome was terribly obvious.
As far as the ending goes, Paradise being the seventh bride was a cleverly written twist in that I sort of expected it, but didn't entirely believe Dekker would go that obvious of a route. He did a good job throwing me off the scent, especially when Quinton himself explicitly revealed the seventh was Paradise's sister and not the misunderstood maiden herself. The whole sequence in the barn was possibly the most well-written piece of the story and a fitting climax. Surprisingly, I was actually left feeling slight sympathy for the man known as Quinton Gauld after he was so unceremoniously shot down.
As for the supporting characters in this story, Dekker wrote them all very well and gave each their own shining moments to make them meaningful. Cass, Roudy, and Andrea were all very likable, but my only complaint about them is that Cass was never used as more than comedy filler. Not ONCE did he have something serious to say that wasn't accompanied by a perverted comment. I feel like his few appearances in the book should have been used better, or he should've just appeared more. The mother-daughter relationship between Paradise and Andrea was touching and never got too soap-opera like, but I wish it had been explored more before the book was nearing it's end. Nikki felt a bit like filler to me, but at least the relationship between she and Brad didn't feel forced as his with Paradise ended up feeling. Even the characters that were just there to be killed by Quinton felt like they had some kind of significance, which is always a good thing.
Overall, to anybody who's a fan of thrillers, I'd recommend this. It doesn't take itself very seriously, which may frustrate some, but from an entertainment aspect it's about as good as it gets. The plot is interesting, and the holes are evident but don't take away from the enjoyment very much in the end. Most everything is addressed when all is said and done, and while there's a typical happy ending, it's still a fun way to take up a few hours and, for me, a solid read that held my attention well over the time I read it. For anyone looking for a truly suspenseful roller coaster ride, this isn't it. It's more of a love story trying to fit into the suit of a thriller, but again, it's still pretty entertaining and I, for one, was able to suspend my disbelief in regards to Paradise's powers long enough to get through it. The Bride Collector wasn't an all-time favorite of mine, but it was good enough to entice me to seek out more of Ted Dekker's work.