When Detective Oliver Justice Chandler reaches the murder scene, he finds a blue body with a noose around its neck and a gum wrapper with Chandler's own fingerprints. He can't remember where he has been for the last few hours. One thing you can be sure of: nothing is as it seems in Randy Alcorn's new novel, Deception.
Even Chandler's life is not what it seems. Since his wife's death of cancer, his family has fallen apart, his drinking has been getting out of hand, and his career has flat lined. He's hard-bitten, cynical, irreverent, funny, and totally manly, so why has the Oregon Tribune chosen him to be teamed with a reporter to follow his murder investigation? He has to believe it's a set up, even though the reporter is almost a friend of his, Clarence Abernathy.
When a witness supposedly jumps to his death, Chandler suspects that the man was murdered by one of the detectives in his department. Suddenly all of his fellow detectives are suspects and he is public enemy number 1 in the police department. The scariest part for Chandler is that he, himself, might have been the murderer. However, animosity leads to attempts on Chandler's life, while his dead wife, son, and friend in Heaven plead with Jesus for his salvation, and his friends on earth try to help with the case.
The book includes discussion questions at the end for book club use.
As always, Alcorn writes a great story. I found myself carrying it around the house, looking for odd moments of freedom to read. His characters are individuals with quirks, Chandler himself being one of the quirkiest. The pace of the plot makes you want to keep reading, and the conversations about spiritual matters that Chandler engages in at his weekly lunches with Clarence and Jake provide depth.
Alcorn's descriptions, too, especially when combined with Chandler's droll comments on life are great. "Somebody with green hair, waiting for coffee, heard Clarence's voice and stared. If I had green hair, I wouldn't stare at anybody" (p. 195). A few small problems I had with the novel include Alcorn's description of hell. As in at least one other book, he has included a look at hell, which he views as separation from God, leaving the soul to bounce around in a void. He does accommodate the traditional view of hell a little more in this book than in Deadline by describing a sudden wave of God's presence. "Here it was unbearable. God's love felt like wrath, His joy like torture. The consuming fire of God that was purity and goodness and comfort to those who loved the light was searing punishment to those who loved darkness." (p. 372).
Also, Deception had a couple of structural problems. The prologue suggested a different type of murderer, especially since the narrator called him "the liberator" (p. 11). As the story unfolds, nothing in the character of the perpetrator suggests someone trying to liberate, or explains what the hard object was that the liberator was squeezing. If there was an explanation, it was so subtle that I missed it.
Randy Alcorn, director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries, tries to help readers get a view of the spiritual reality beyond what we see in daily life. I think that is great, but in this case, I didn't think his glimpses of heaven or hell added much to the structure of the story. Perhaps because the conversations between Chandler, Jake, and Clarence took us to the heart of the spiritual issues, the views of heaven and hell distracted from the story. Sometimes they felt light and trivial in comparison.
However, my biggest problem with Deception was the superglue that the publishers used on the cover. Even after removing the paper cover before bedtime because it reminded me of The Silence of the Lambs, I couldn't put this book down. It kept me up until 2:00 a.m., and afterward I couldn't get to sleep until nearly morning! Also, wherever I went in the house, the book stuck to my hand. I just could not leave it on the shelf. It was scary, challenging, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable. – Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
Who Done It…and Why?
Ollie Chandler is a brilliant and quick-witted homicide detective who lives by Ollie’s First Law: “Things are not what they appear.” So when a university professor is found murdered and the motive looks like revenge, a stunning discovery leads him to an unimaginable conclusion. Could the murderer be a fellow homicide detective? As Ollie probes deeper, another detective is murdered. What is the root of this jumbled, deceptive mess of lies and secrets? Jake Woods returns from Deadline, and Clarence Abernathy from Dominion in this heart-pounding murder mystery bristling with tension and suspicion. Deception will take you to heaven and hell and back again…breathless to discover the truth.