What is a moral absolute? When is it all right to seek vengeance? Who has the right to act as judge and jury? Ted Dekker, who does good versus evil better than anyone, is back with a new thriller which is chilling in its premise: The Priest’s Graveyard.
In a book replete with compelling characters, Dekker has given us two that will keep us cheering for them even as we weigh the correctness (or not) of their actions. The main characters here will attract readers even as they sometimes repel them. Danny Hansen and Renee Gilmore are people driven by acts of injustice . . . so driven they will do anything to right the sins of the past.
Setting: Bosnia 1952. The country is seething as Orthodox Christians kill Catholic Christians. The horror of war is brought home to one 15-year-old the day his Catholic mother and two sisters are raped and murdered. He escapes and later kills the men who have taken the lives of his family. He joins the Army and becomes a trained killer. Three years later, he immigrates to the United States where he becomes Danny Hansen, a priest. It’s many years later that we meet the man Danny has become.
The present. The day we meet Renee she is strung out on heroin and is being pursued by her pimp Cyrus who wants to either control her or kill her. As she is being pursued, a stranger comes to her rescue but not before she is shot twice. Lamont Myers takes Renee to his home in Malibu where she is treated for her bullet wounds and assisted in withdrawal from heroin. As time passes, Renee who is deeply indebted to Lamont falls in love with him. He keeps her safe and she never leaves the glass house he calls home. One day he comes home from a business trip and confides in Renee that he has learned some horrible information about his business partner, Jonathan Bourque. Lamont fears that Bourque will have him killed. It transpires that his fears were not groundless. He goes on a business trip to Japan and never returns.
Since the house locks from the outside, Renee is trapped. As the days pass, she becomes increasingly concerned and looks for ways to break out of the house. Then one day she hears voices and realizes someone has broken in. She escapes to the garage with just the clothes on her back and $300,000 stuffed into her pajamas and hides in the trunk of an Audi. Unfortunately for her, the killers take the car. When they finally park the car, she hides in it until nightfall and then lets herself out. She has just one thing on her mind: revenge. Jonathan Bourque will pay for having Lamont killed.
In the meantime, Danny has been living as a priest even as he metes out vigilante justice on rapists, pedophiles, murderers and other evildoers. One passage sums up Danny’s attitude toward dispensing justice: “Morality was about following the rules. It was about treating others with love. Danny’s use of violence against the guilty was an act of love. For Danny so loved the world that he gave up his own dignity to cleanse the temple of snakes.”
Even as Renee tracks down Bourque, he has come to the attention of Danny. A former priest, Bourque has become a powerful businessman who uses up women and kills them. He has a graveyard full of victims. Renee, not savvy enough to keep herself from getting caught, has come to the attention of Bourque’s security chief and is in a very precarious position when Danny arrives on the scene. He manages to free Renee from the man’s clutches. After hearing Renee’s story, Danny finally agrees to help her get Bourque and that’s when the story gets really exciting. In fact, the storyline is turned upside down and all is changed.
Readers will follow along as Danny teaches Renee everything he knows about serving up a dish called revenge even as both wrestle with the question: when does a human being have the right to take justice into their own hands? When do we have the right to judge another’s actions?
Dekker, one of the most powerful fiction writers today, will make readers question some of their own deeply held beliefs as he lets them walk a mile in Danny and Renee’s shoes. He only gets better and better as an author as you will no doubt concur after taking this jolt-ridden ride with him. Great reading.