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Friday, April 17, 2009

BoneMan's Daughters by Ted Dekker

This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance introduces Boneman's Daughters (Center Street, April 14, 2009) by Ted Dekker
About the Author

Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. Dekker's body of work encompassing seven mysteries, three thrillers and ten fantasies includes Heaven's Wager, When Heaven Weeps, Thunder of Heaven, Blessed Child, A Man Called Blessed, Blink, Thr3e, The Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, White), Obsessed, Renegade, and Chaos.

About the Book

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.

You can listen to an audio clip HERE

If you would like to read the first chapter of Boneman's Daughters, go HERE.

My Review

I have mixed feelings about this highly anticipated novel. Like Dekker’s other novels, this one is fast-paced, suspenseful, and mind-stretching. And Ted is a good writer; he certainly knows how to spin a tale, pace his stories, and ratchet up the suspense. As in his other novels, he uses some biblical symbolism certain to make some readers think more about God's love for fallen man as illustrated by the main character's love for his daughter and the sacrifices he makes. The novel also raises some ethical questions about how low a father, represented by a vigilante father, should go to save his daughter. I won’t rehash the storyline here, but I will summarize that this is probably the darkest, grittiest Dekker novel I’ve read yet. It certainly is not for the faint of heart.

As a Christian novel, this one won't pass the litmus test of more conservative readers due to crude language, flippant uses of God's name in dialogue, and the total absence of any overtly Christian character. (See the content rating at and keep in mind that most of this language was edited out before the final printing.) The level of distasteful violence also pushes the envelope, and I felt repulsed more than once, though I realize that the violence was restrained compared to what it could have been.

As usual with Dekker, I felt confused because I couldn't tell whether the novel was supposed to be Christian or secular. It weighed heavily on the latter, and I’ve since learned that BoneMan’s Daughters is Dekker’s first foray into the secular market. Well, that explains it. I just wish CBD and other advertisers had made that fact clearer before I started the book.

As a novel, this disturbing story is engaging, compelling, and hard to put down. The twists and turns are amazing, though not always logical, and Dekker kept me guessing more than once. Some places in the plot seemed a little low on the plausibility scale.

Many times I would like to have seen more character depth to create more sympathy. The lead Ryan Evans, an intelligence officer, makes some rash decisions that don't always make sense. At least twice, he could have attacked BoneMan and possibly overpowered him; I’m not sure why he didn’t try. (Interestingly his attitude as the story’s hero appears to convey an anti-Iraq-war message to the reader.) Perhaps if I had understood Ryan’s character better, he would have seemed more sympathetic. His daughter, Bethany, is as jaded and shallow as they come. Ryan's cheating wife, Celine, and her DA boyfriend aren't much better. I frankly had little sympathy for any of the main characters. Even Ricki, the FBI agent, seemed flat to me. So when Bethany's kidnapping takes place, I didn't find myself caring about her or Ryan as much as I should have. Maybe that's because I never really liked her to begin with. (What I found interesting as I was reading is that this novel bears some striking similarities to The Pawn by Steven James. There’s a serial killer and a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship; the daughter even “cuts” herself. Interesting . . . )

[Spoiler Warning] Probably the most interesting character in the novel is BoneMan, who prefers to be called “Satan,” further reinforcement of the symbolism. However, this skin-shaving, Noxzema-applying psycho continues to be an enigma in my mind. I understand his hatred of his mother and his desire to seek the perfect daughter (though how his hatred of his mother translates into seeking a perfect daughter remains unclear). When his victims do not meet his standards, he systematically kills them by breaking their bones. Thankfully, Dekker spares the reader from actually seeing BoneMan carry out one of his numerous murders. However, to save Bethany, BoneMan forces Ryan to essentially become BoneMan and break the bones of Ryan’s wife’s lover. (I know—it’s difficult even imagining such an act.) To save Bethany, Ryan is willing to become like the serial killer himself—again raising ethical questions about what is acceptable in this situation. I'm still not sure why BoneMan breaks the bones of his victims other than to mirror Christ's crucifixion and to "get it right" since Christ's bones were not broken. But why does BoneMan feel that he must do this? (Perhaps a rereading of key chapters might aid my understanding.)

As a secular novel, you won't find a much cleaner read than this. For horror fiction (which this is), you won’t find such restrained violence either. As already noted, the clever biblical symbolism may get some readers thinking about what Jesus endured on the cross for us. For that reason, I applaud Dekker's desire to symbolize biblical truth and challenge the thinking of a secular audience. But as with some of his other novels, I didn’t feel that he inserted enough of a spiritual message, which is buried under so much darkness, to seal the deal. The rather abrupt ending wasn’t quite what I wanted either; suddenly, Ryan is running away from the compound with only a broken heel. Why did BoneMan let him go? In the end, the novel, though displaying some expertly crafted suspense, seemed more unsettling than uplifting.


  1. Good review! It's time that someone noticed the emperor had on no clothes.

  2. LOL...sorry to burst the bubble but this is not a secular book! Center Street is a Hachette Book Group label.

    Center Street is also the label for Karen Kingsbury, James Patterson, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Myers just to name a few :-)

  3. Bonnie,

    Thanks for leaving your comment at my blog. But I must confess my confusion. I was going off this article, which should be accurate:

    Is this article incorrect?

    Isn't Center Street targeting for the secular market? If you read the endorsements on the jacket of Boneman's Daughter's, this is clearly targeted at secular readers.


  4. Hi Adam,

    Sometimes "words" can be confusing.

    You are taking the word "general market" to mean that it is a secular house, and it is not. It is still a christian publishing house, they are just telling you that the work from here may offend ultra conservative christianity. They are just "targeting" secular readers.

    This is the same "brand" that publishes Karen Kingsbury.

  5. Bonnie, no offense, but I didn't say that Center Street was a secular house. This is what I said: "I’ve since learned that BoneMan’s Daughters is Dekker’s first foray into the secular market." I didn't say Center Street was secular; I said the novel was targeted for the secular market. I don't mean to argue; just want to make sure I am not being interpreted as saying something else.

    As far as I can tell, this is a secular book; it's just not a secular press.

  6. offense taken, I just think you are missing the point.

    The christian publishing world is trying to get "our fiction" into the main stream, so that "our books" wind up cataloged right alongside the Tom Clancey's and Stephen King's of this world.

    Right now any book...including yours, that has an "inspirational fiction" tag on it, gets segregated to the inspirational shelves. You can not get put into the general population without a "general fiction" tag.

    Center Street has that "general fiction" tag. Therefore they can get all of their christian authors shelved with all the other general fiction titles up front, where the world can find us.

    The Lord told us not to hide our light under a bushel, and we can't reach the unsaved, or unchurched unless we can level the playing field.

    All of Ted Dekker's books are as equally raw and unnerving as this one. The only difference with this one is you will find it in the front of the bookstore, instead of relegated to the inspirational shelves. :-)