Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer

The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer
Genre: Christian Thriller/Suspense
Pages: 304
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Source: I received a free review e-copy through the WaterBrook Multnomah Blogging for Books Program.
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the publisher):
Protected by the dark of night, Jaimie Piper runs. But is anywhere safe when Evil is hunting you?
She’s just a twelve year-old girl, bumped around between foster homes and relegated to school classes for challenged kids, those lagging in their test scores or with behavioral issues. But her real problem is that she can sense something the other kids can’t—something dark. Something compelling her to run for her life.
All Crockett Grey wants is to mark the anniversary of his daughter’s death alone.
But when his student Jaimie comes to him, terrified, her need for protection collides with his grief, and a tangled web of bizarre events sends them both spiraling toward destruction.
Crockett’s one hope of getting his life back is to uncover the mysterious secrets of Jaimie’s past and her strange gift. It isn’t long before his discoveries lead him to a darker conspiracy, secrets guarded by the highest seat of power in the world—the Vatican.

I almost stopped reading this book after the first couple of chapters. I have a hard time with books that are too serious about supernatural elements being normal and everywhere in real life (I guess I'm unimaginative), and it bothers me when the bad guys in a Christian fiction novel are Satanists (it seems too easy and obvious to pick out the bad guys that way). So right away those two pet peeves of mine were poked at with this book. But I gave the book another shot, and as adults and professionals in the story began providing alternate points of view and explanations for the events, it became much easier to swallow. The fact that the reader has options on how to interpret the happenings in the story helped me to enjoy it more. It keeps you wondering rather than being told what to think.

At times I felt like some of the events in the book were a bit too coincidental and I had a hard time accepting the reasons why the people after Jamie and the people trying to protect her took such drastic measures against Crockett Gray when they thought she had told him too much about her secret. They went too far for something that could probably have been brushed off fairly easily if he did know too much - who would really believe his wild story? He didn't even believe it once he learned Jamie's secret.

The characters were interesting and unique. I did become very curious about what caused Jamie's "gift" and found the explanation plausible. Crockett was a sympathetic character and I felt bad for him every time the relationship with his son was threatened. I kind of hated the way that he was framed - he was a teacher and there's nothing more damaging than accusations of child abuse and pornography. That whole aspect of the story left me feeling icky. The other characters connected to Jamie - her therapist and the Catholic priest involved in exorcisms - were interestingly hard to pin down. For a long time I wasn't sure whether they were trustworthy or not.

Even though this book wasn't perfect for me, by the end I thought it had become rather thought-provoking and once I finally got into the storyline (it took me a while) it did get quite suspenseful. There turns out to be a big secret within the Catholic Church in this novel, and the way it unfolded Jamie's connection to it, once the characters got to Rome, reminded me of Dan Brown. I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone - it is better for those who can accept the fictional possibility of there being widespread demon possessions in the world and Satanism practiced by people in leadership roles in the Catholic Church. I had a hard time deciding if I should take the book seriously or not (turns out this book is speculative fiction), but in the end I ended up glad that I gave the book another try.

Related Linkage:
Reading Challenges: Mystery & Suspense Challenge, Speculative Fiction Challenge


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