Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Sinner: Ted Dekker, August 15—25, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Sinner is the third part of the Paradise Trilogy which itself forms part of the Chronicles of History. The trilogy centres around orphan Billy’s decision to write in one of the blank books only for his evil creation, Marsuvees Black, to come to life.
Sinner is very much a sequel and a stand-alone at the same. There are sufficient references to Showdown and Saint, but the plot is removed enough from the preceding instalments to be read in isolation. In fact, Dekker now recommends reading the series backwards and allowing these references to be teasers.
This final instalment is set 13 years after the creation of Black. Billy is now a criminal defence lawyer and his ex-girlfriend Darcy is living a secluded life, traumatised by the events of Showdown. At the opening of the book, Billy gains the ability to read minds while Darcy becomes capable of making minds up. No sooner does this occur do they find themselves working with the FBI, CIA, Senate, White House and other assorted national leaders.
Sinner explores the balance between free speech and tolerance, and how that fits into Christianity which is, by definition, exclusivist. It’s a genuinely tricky issue which is handled badly by overstating the reaction of the government. In general, Dekker rams every message down your throat to the point of distraction. Every character insists on banging on at length about how much they never think about a person’s race, which sounds unnatural and forced. Subsequent themes about the shunning of Christians by a secular society are similarly heavy-handed, and it seems as though the story is very much a vehicle for Dekker’s sermons.
Character development is rushed for all concerned. It seems to happen suddenly, dramatically and then lead to a plateau for a while. It’s not believable, the characters are not likeable and it’s difficult to invest in them. The plot is very over-the-top and uncertain of its purpose. Is this a supernatural thriller? A political thriller? A spiritual exegesis? And whatever it is builds quite suddenly to a very dramatic over-the-top climax where characters insist a quickly changing rainbow of ideas are each ‘the only way’ without ever really explaining the need for them.
Most disappointing is the short shrift handed to Marsuvees Black, who is largely absent for the majority of the book. He steals the scenes he appears in early on, but later he is badly mistreated by the author later on which betrays his earlier menace.
There are some good points. It’s great to be back in Paradise again and to live in that little close-knit village for a while, however short lived. There are also a couple of genuine surprises and the traditional Dekker twist at the end is clever, even if not particularly – dare I say it? – interesting.
Undeniably a Dekker, he has gathered some complex issues but hasn’t constructed them well into a narrative. Sinner misses the mark, and the high bar set by Showdown and overall it’s a little disappointing.