Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
I love thriller films, but I’m not the always biggest fan of thriller books. It’s hard to scare me with words, and the art of horror fiction seems to be one that few authors have truly mastered throughout the years.
But a friend introduced me to the work of Ted Dekker several years back, and he has quickly become one of my favorite authors. His ability to combine great action with gripping suspense almost always manages to pull me in and not let me go. His track record isn’t perfect (I had to struggle to finish his book “Obsessed,” for example), but he’s earned his recent New York Times bestseller list success.
His latest work, “The Bride Collector,” follows in the fashion of the works he is most known for, straying from his recent dabbling into fantasy territory with his “Circle” series. In fact, if you read Dekker’s other works, the core plot might be extremely familiar to you: A serial killer is running amok, likely with a religious motive in mind, and one man must stop him.
Sure, it’s formulaic, but then so are a lot of Stephen King’s novels. Besides, Dekker apparently still has enough twists in him that he’s able to make it work.
The killer in question this time has been dubbed the Bride Collector, and he is killing women whom he thinks God has chosen to be his bride. He believes himself to be God’s messenger, and won’t stop until he has delivered the seventh and most perfect bride to God.
FBI special agent Brad Raines, on the other hand, is determined to put a stop to him. Not an easy task when the killer decides to make the cat-and-mouse chase a little more personal.
To crack the case and stop the Bride Collector in time, Raines must enlist the help of patients at the Center for Well-being and Intelligence &- a mental institution for exceptionally smart and gifted mentally ill people. It’s almost as if the FBI found a bunch of “Rain Man”-like people and decided to have them help with a case they can’t crack themselves.
This could have been a dangerous move for Dekker, as mental illness isn’t the easiest topic to tastefully cover, but he manages to find a nice balance of having the CWI patients be somewhere between “Rain Man” and “Monk,” and the story benefits well from Dekker’s ability to do so.
Like M. Night Shyamalan for film, Dekker is fairly known for his surprising plot twists.
Unfortunately there’s not much in the way of twists in “The Bride Collector,” but there are still a few surprises. Just don’t expect that “holy crap” moment you might get from watching “The Sixth Sense” or reading Dekker’s novel “Thr3e.”
The plot benefits from its lack of twist, however, as it allows more room for Dekker to do what he does best. He is extremely good at using fiction to explore deep, complex ideas about the world around us. As a Christian, he very often examines God, religion and spirituality, and that’s definitely the case here. However, I do not think non-Christians should shy away from the novel based on this alone. “The Bride Collector” never feels preachy, even at its most theological.
Besides, the plot waxes philosophical about the treatment of mental patients almost as much as it does about God’s love. By diving into the mind of the killer (something Dekker does often), we’re able to look at the world from a different perspective than we usually do, and you may end up sympathizing with The Bride Collector more than you would expect.
“The Bride Collector” may not be Dekker’s absolute best work (if you’ve never read him, I recommend “Thr3e” or the more recent bestseller, “BoneMan’s Daughters”), but it’s definitely quite good. If you’re at all a fan of smart thrillers, you should pick this up. It may keep you up at night for reasons other than being afraid of the dark.
“The Bride Collector” will be released today in hardcover.