Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Bride Collector: Ted Dekker, 6—30 April, 2012.
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Ted Dekker returns with another twisting, turning thriller in The Bride Collector, the story of a serial killer with a penchant for beautiful women.
The killer is swiftly introduced to us as Quinton Gauld – though not known to the detective, Brad Raines. Dekker builds a compelling character in Gauld, a man with a troubled but ordered mind. His personality and outlook are quickly and firmly established and remain consistent for the bulk of the adventure. He is intelligent but imperfect, occasionally slipping up and acknowledging it, making him a believable and interesting adversary.
Up against him is Brad Raines, a detective with an unresolved bereavement. Besides this piece of information about his past, Raines’ character is underdeveloped when compared to Gauld. One step behind the audience and devoid of any life or personality outside of the case, Raines is likeable and maintains sympathy but is overall forgettable as another stock investigator. Gauld is by far the more notable lead.
The investigation brings us to a psychiatric hospital and a colourful cast of patients join the story. Roudy, Casanova and Andrea have very much supporting roles while Paradise becomes elevated to a principal cast member. Each has their own quirks, for wont of a better word, and they’re humorously portrayed which is troublesome. At first the fear for the reader is that these characters are parodies, poking fun at mental illness. But it becomes a dominant theme for the remainder of the narrative – what is normality? What, therefore, is insanity? Why isn’t ‘different’, ‘better’, and who defines what that is? And so the characteristics and attributes that set these people apart become endearing, and Dekker encourages us to celebrate their differences and enjoy their eccentricities (for wont of another word, again). In my opinion it’s a theme that’s relevant to the plot and sensitively – even challengingly – handled that leaves you rethinking your views. In the end, I enjoyed their scenes immensely and they became definite highlights enhancing the novel with their colourful personalities. The only drawback, for me, is the Centre manager’s willingness to let the FBI breeze in and out. Although Dekker goes some way to justifying it, I find it hard to swallow.
Two significant developments are designed to come from Paradise’s entrance. One, her relationship (in the broadest sense) with Raines, which is mildly interesting but moreso contrived and predictable. The other – advertised as a USP for the story – is her apparent ability to touch a dead body and see the last thing they saw before their death. The benefits for a murder mystery are obvious, but criminally underused. Unlike Dekker’s previous works – for example, Blink where the ability to see alternate scenarios heavily influences the plot – Paradise’s “gift” is used once, and its overall impact is so negligible the sequence could easily be omitted without affecting any other part of the narrative. Given its obscurity, the gift’s minimal airtime doesn’t harm the story however it is a strange decision on Dekker’s part to include a bizarre piece of supernatural in an ill-fitting genre when it isn’t capitalised on. If anything, it weakens the credibility of the novel slightly and wasn’t a necessary feature.
The dénouement is ushered in by a radical change in Gauld that is entirely unsupported. It’s such a sudden and dramatic turnaround it seriously damages his credibility and disengages the audience. With the rules changed to such an extent, suspended disbelief comes crashing down and the events seem so out of character we stop caring. It’s clawed back nearer the end but could have been so much stronger had continuity and characterisation been more diligently respected.
Overall, it’s a good volume from Dekker which poses some interesting questions for the reader. There are some unexpected twists in the middle that are well-dropped game changers (dénouement-ushering exclusive) but it lacks the trademark Dekker twist at the very end which is instead replaced by a relatively weak – if arguably fitting – ending.