Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sanctuary

Ted Dekker strikes again! The Santuary is a stand-alone thriller (not young adult, I should clarify, since most of the other stuff I read is), but readers will recognize its two main characters from The Priest's Graveyard. The Sanctuary doesn't have to be read as a sequel, but it does pick up where the other book left off, in a way. If you haven't read The Priest's Graveyard and want to, this review may contain unwanted SPOILERS. Thematically, the books are related, but the emphasis is different, and the two stories are separate and self-contained. I guess, however, that you could say the themes from The Sanctuary are a natural progression of the thoughts from The Priest's Graveyard. Although you wouldn't have to read both, I would recommend reading them together and in order.

Danny Hansen confessed to two murders he didn't commit in order to spare his wife a prison sentence, but Danny is by no means innocent. In his old life, he was a priest who took the law into his own hands. Now, Danny willingly pays the price, knowing he's become the very monster he tried to keep off the streets, but someone from his past doesn't think Danny and Renee have suffered enough, and the villain has concocted a game to get his revenge and expose Danny for the monster he is. Danny, however, has taken a vow of nonviolence. How hard will his enemy have to push him to break him? And can Renee rescue him before it's too late for both of them?

As usual, this latest Dekker thriller is hardcore and not for the faint of heart. Dekker is a Christian, but I think a lot of Christians would have a hard time reconciling his worldview with their own. As my husband puts it, Dekker likes to make Christianity "visceral." He uses extreme imagery to get across simple but deep truths about what it means to follow God. His thrillers may be fit for the secular market, but they are anything but cheap, shallow entertainment. Yeah, there's a lot of shock value, but it's there to shock us awake, which has to be a good thing.

In The Sanctuary, the main issue is violence. Is it wrong? What if the person you love more than life itself needs your protection? How do you stand up for the weak when the world is full of violent predators? What kind of justice does a murderer deserve? What does it mean to be human? What is grace? These are all questions that are tackled in a plot that delves right into the middle of some of the worst kind of violence. Murder, rape, torture; it's all in there, handled carefully but not lightly. Dekker likes to open up the black holes of the world and blast a floodlight on them. You've been warned. But time and again, the trip has certainly been worth it for me.

I have a shelf full of Dekker books, most in hard cover. My favorites among them I've rated five stars. The Sanctuary read quickly but didn't have quite the same impact as some for me, falling at about a three-star rating. Still good. And it delivered one of Dekker's famous end twists, which I really didn't see coming and which made me kind of want to go back and see how the book might read differently had I known what was really going on.

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