Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Review of THE SANCTUARY by Ted Dekker
Photo Credit: Hachette Book Group
Rating: 5 out of 5
Danny Hansen and Renee Gilmore have been through a lot. Danny used to be a priest committed to seeing justice enforced. Unfortunately, his brand of justice led him to take the law into his own hands and kill the people he believes deserve to die for their crimes. Renee Gilmore, caught in the crosshairs, learns to execute justice like Danny and the two of them fall in love. Their journey together leads Danny to a new understanding, that evil can’t be eradicated through violence. Taking the fall for Renee’s crimes, Danny is now in prison. Recently transferred to an experimental prison called Basil, Danny encounters a warden bent on exposing the darkness in all of the prisoners and eradicating it through some unorthodox methods. Meanwhile, on the outside, Renee receives a box containing a severed finger and a letter stating that if she doesn’t do what the person who sent the letter wants, then Danny will die. On the inside, Danny receives a similar threat. Can Danny and Renee do what it takes to rescue one another before it’s too late?
THE SANCTUARY is Ted Dekker’s follow-up to his 2011 novel THE PRIEST’S GRAVEYARD. While the earlier book was about vigilante justice, this story is about how the human heart is truly habilitated and the failure of human corrections systems to make any real lasting change in the heart of a criminal. Dekker has a knack for wrestling with big questions in his stories. Not in a preachy way, but by taking us on a journey with his characters to see how these deep questions of morality interface with real life. How will his characters deal with the questions Dekker is raising?
In THE SANCTUARY Dekker explores America’s prison system and daringly reveals the pervasive nature of our corrections system to harden criminals rather than rehabilitate them. Furthermore, rehabilitation may not be what we hope for because behavior may change but the inner heart motivations that catalyzed the behavior in the first place may still be in place, pouring out in other ways.
The suspense level is high in this novel, which is another Dekker staple. Danny and Renee are pushed to their limits and at times even further than their limits. Lives outside of their own are at stake, and they must do unspeakable things and endure much for the sake of others. The warden acts as almost invincible antagonist, which raises the tension even further throughout the story. And, of course, there is the element of mystery. Who is playing this cruel game with Danny and Renee, and what is their motivation? The big reveal is another element you can expect in a Dekker novel, and this one is no exception. I was surprised, as I usually am, and yet after you experience the story, it all makes sense. I should’ve seen it all along.
Readers of THE SANCTUARY will be faced with the deep depravity that exists in all of us and the incredible hope for genuine rehabilitation that is found only in the grace and love of God. It’s a great story by a truly talented and insightful author.
Review copy provided by Center Street