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Spotlight on: Obsessed by Ted Dekker

Obsessed by Ted Dekker Ted Dekker, Obsessed

(WestBow Press is a Christian publisher with a decidedly open-minded agenda. Instead of having Christian authors tell distinctly Christian stories -- as is usually the case -- they prefer that the authors tell whatever stories need to be told through them, on the assumption that this will spread the word with more subtlety.)

I have to admit that I did not expect to pick up a book from a Christian publisher and find a novel peopled entirely with Jewish and Nazi characters. In fact, I don't think I've ever read a book from a Christian publisher before, as I don't like proselytizing fiction. However, an excellent publicist steered me in the direction of the new novel from Ted Dekker -- the author behind The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, and White) and Three -- with the statement that "while [Dekker] is well-known in the Christian community, I believe that [Obsessed] has enough mainstream/historical thriller content that it should not offend readers of any (or no) religious faith."

That and the trailer available on the Obsessed page on the WestBow website (the first trailer I've ever seen for a book) convinced me to try it out. It's a good thing I'm open-minded, because this is a solid thriller. Unfortunately, it's not much more than that.

Stephen Friedman's life has changed forever. He has just discovered that local resident Rachel Spritzer is his biological mother ... right after she died. Through a friend, she left a clue to his birthright, which is located in her old house. Her old house that was just bought, by an owner who is looking for the same thing he is: The Stones of David -- five stamped and gilded rocks that are fabled to have been used by a young shepherd named David to kill a giant Philistine called Goliath.

That new owner is Roth Braun, a German anti-Semite serial killer and son of Nazi commandant Gerhard Braun, whom Roth has seen as weak ever since Gerhard allowed Spritzer to escape from a concentration camp with her newborn child. Stephen is in pursuit of the Stones, and Roth will do anything to keep Stephen from finding his treasure. The trick is that, to Roth, the whole thing is just a game, while Stephen is looking for the answer to the big question mark that is his life.

While the Stephen/Roth storyline takes place in 1973, author Dekker parallels it with the World War II story of Gerhard and his relationship with two women in his camp, Martha and Ruth. How the two plotlines are connected is unclear at first, but it slowly dawns, offering a true surprise at its revelation. But it is Stephen's obsession that makes up the bulk of Obsessed. Any sane person would have given up after a few tries, but Stephen proves to be more interesting than sanity, continually taking further steps towards his target. Still, Dekker's skill ensures that his story never crosses into implausibility. The same cannot be said for his characters. Roth becomes less and less a real human being and more a Villain!! as the novel progresses and Stephen is little more than his obsession. Choice of character is a strong point, but the development of those characters is not, giving us essentially a passel of plot-pushers (Gerhard comes the closest to tri-dimensionality). Luckily, the plot is strong enough to stand it.

Obsessed moved along like a popcorn flick and kept me turning the pages even when I was questioning the logic of some of the situations (I said plausible, not believable). Nevertheless, there was the nagging feeling that it could have been significantly shorter. One aspect that could have easily been trimmed were a few instances of unnecessarily preachy prose, because it doesn't really affect the plot and only serves to weakly develop an already weakly-developed character, as well as knocking me right out of the story. All in all, though, Dekker's latest offered plenty of fun and excitement with its thought-provoking -- if a little exploitive -- storyline, but I wouldn't call it literature. It's more the ideal read (or listen) for a morning and evening commute.

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