Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bone breaking and family troubles: My Review of Ted Dekker's "Boneman's Daughters"

The world didn’t like to look at the dark underside very often. 
But that didn’t change the ugliness;
it only ensured that those who perpetuated the ugliness were left alone to kill and maim and rape. 
Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker

A Texas serial killer called BoneMan is on the loose, choosing young girls as his prey, His signature: myriad broken bones that torture and kill - but never puncture.

Military intelligence officer Ryan Evans is married to his work; so much so that his wife and daughter have written him out of their lives. Sent to Fallujah and captured by insurgents, he is asked to kill children not unlike his own. The method: a meticulous, excruciating death by broken bones that his captor has forced him to learn.

Returning home after the ordeal, a new crisis awaits. A serial killer is on the loose, and his method of killing is the same. Ryan becomes a prime suspect, which isn't even the worst of his problems: Ryan's daughter is BoneMan's latest desire.
                This is my first Dekker novel – and I don’t really know anything about him, save that he writes thrillers so I walked in expecting a thriller. And I got a slow burning thriller – in the sense that, it had me on edge, trying to think around the characters and find the resolution before it happened, but that the resolution was so long in coming, it near gave me an ulcer.

                The story is about, predominantly, a Father’s love. There are elements of this being an allegory to “The Father” (see: Capitalized) as in God, and I can see how it works, but I bet many people who worship God would be plenty pissed – since, among other things, Ryan (the Father) tortures a man, lights a building on fire knowing someone is inside of it, and in general demonstrates a willingness to go to extreme lengths to get to his daughter – who, in my opinion, goes from a normal heroic girl to very irritating, very quickly.

                I think the pull for me, in this book, was how it reminded me of other books I had read or movies I had seen. Though completely a different type of killer, the Boneman’s obsession with lotion and smooth skin reminded me of Buffallo Bill from Silence of the Lambs (Film & Book), and Ryan himself reminded me of countless heroes from Harlan Coben novels, not to mention the rash of military heroes turned investigators that have seemed to invade my television and theater. And the religious tinge to the killer’s viewpoints reminded me very much of the Canadian novel I read and enjoyed so much a couple of years ago (I really do need to pick up that sequel…) The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe.

                The reason I kept reading it, I think, was to see how all those things I recognized and associated with other works would play out together.

                It was a little miss but mostly hit.

                The characters were developed, for sure – but in a very bleak way. Dekker does a lot of telling rather than showing, in the sense that he will take you through the thought process of a character – like when Bethany gets captured, you don’t hear about her stiff upper lip and trembling hands – he just tells you he’s scared, and gets on with it. While this makes for a more expedient read (ha ha, all 400 pages …) it is also less magical then it could have been. And sometimes it gets irritating  - he tends to repeat information a lot … like on CSI, where every episode you hear “DNA is unique …. DNA is everywhere … We will find a match for this DNA” (sideways glance, glasses on …)

                While intrinsically not a terrible thing, it does get a mite irritating.

                More important for me when reading is whether or not the plot makes sense to me. And this one … there were times I was totally on board and there were moments where I flashed back to one of those recent Liam Neeson movies where he trapezes around a European country to save his daughter or wife or some girl he met (why is it never the other way around?). I understand that, predominantly, this story is about a Father’s love – whether that be a human or godly Father (And for those who say Ryan is too flawed to be God, that God would never go to extreme lengths to save his children – I refer you to Exodus – just read it through, floods and brimstone and bets with the devil – wouldn’t go to extremes my ass), and so much of the action centers around what Ryan would do to get his daughter back – including torture, escaping from prison, etc. But it begins to solely be about this game with the devil, and for me that took off a bit of the shine from the thriller itself.

                What really gravitated my attention for about half the book was the question of whether or not the Boneman and Ryan were the same person – Multiple Personality Disorder. Dekker lays the groundwork for this meticulously at first, laying a very  good foundation – and then suddenly and dramatically concludes this, in order to focus on the cat-and-mouse game that categorizes the rest of the book. In my opinion, emphasis on this aspect would have pulled this book from “Good” to “Ah-Maze-Ing!”.

                All in all, it was a pretty good thriller – as I said, it was a bit slow sometimes and the characters could be irritating, but the allegory is pretty sound and the little tidits of cultural awareness that Dekker sneaks in are worth the irritating wife and D.A. you have to deal with. I do wish that the female FBI agent, Valentine, had more screentime, but then – maybe she’ll pop up in another of his books? She seems like she’d have some pretty awesome stories.

Up Next to Review : The Dead Girl’s Dance by Rachel Caine

Read if you liked:
  • Tick Tock by Dean Koontz
  • The Innocent by Harlan Coben
  • The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe


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