Wednesday, August 26, 2009

BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker (unabridged audio book read by Robert Petkoff)

Navy captain Ryan Evans has never been much of a husband to his wife Celine or father to his daughter Bethany. His work with military intelligence has always taken first priority and has caused not only his absence in their lives but even their house via his multiple deployments. In fact, Celine and Bethany have decided to continue their lives as if Ryan were never a part of them, which they've believed for years.

But Ryan's experience as a prisoner of war changes his priorities, and suddenly he wants nothing more than to be the perfect husband and father. Meanwhile, Phil Switzer, whom district attorney Burton Welsh prosecuted to conviction for the "BoneMan" killings, has been released from prison due to new doubts about the evidence.

Elsewhere, the real BoneMan is making plans for his next abduction. In his search for the perfect daughter, and after seven unsuccessful tries that had to be eliminated (shades of The Stepfather), he thinks he's found just the right girl: Bethany.

In early 2005, I was sent a review copy of a novel by an author totally new to me. Obsessed was Ted Dekker's eleventh novel for Christian fiction publisher Thomas Nelson, and it suffered from Dekker's insistence on making the characters purely "good" or "evil." Four years and twenty (!) novels later, Dekker's craft has greatly improved, and his characters have gotten far more complex. All the people in BoneMan's Daughters are flawed, and yet all also manage to elicit our sympathy. (The book is Dekker's first with a mainstream publisher, namely the vast Hachette conglomerate.)

BoneMan's Daughters is utterly compelling from start to finish, though Dekker still relies too heavily on Judeo-Christian God and Satan metaphors for my taste (especially the pervasive father/Father motif) and the ending is unbelievable. Despite these major flaws (though some readers will not see them as such), the author has produced a thrilling and worthy addition to the canon of serial-killer fiction. In BoneMan, he has created the most fascinating serial killer since Francis Dolarhyde. (You'll never look at Noxzema lotion the same way again.)

Audiobook reader Robert Petkoff (Beat the Reaper) does a marvelous job with the varied characters, capturing the voice of each character perfectly. His ability to go from hero to villain, switching between two characters displaying very different emotions from each other in a single conversation, is nothing short of stunning. I don't think BoneMan's Daughters would be nearly as effective on the page.

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