Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Canary List: A Novel, by Sigmund Brouwer



Improbably named middle school teacher Crockett Grey is drunk.  And he means to be.  It's the anniversary of his daughter's death and all he wants to do is be alone and miserable.  And it looks like he'll get his wish . . . that is, until one of his students knocks on his door.  Twelve-year-old foster child Jaimie Piper is terrified and on the run from an Evil no one else can see.  Before he knows it, Crockett finds himself behind bars, embroiled in a swirl of false (and devastating) accusations--he's being framed for child abuse and pedophilia, his elderly neighbor Nanna is missing, Jaimie's foster home has been torched, and he may never get to see his son again.  Crockett is determined to get to the bottom of what looks to be a conspiracy far deeper than he ever imagined . . . and implicating powerful people in very high places.

This book was rather a pleasant surprise.  Most of my experiences with 'Christian' fiction have been, shall we say, rather lackluster.  Then again, this book is not so obviously 'Christian' as many others, even if the main character does undergo a bit of a spiritual change of heart during the course of his adventures.  More than anything, this is a suspense/conspiracy tale--and not a bad one at that.  There were some less-than-original choices, to be sure--the Catholic church has been a popular fall guy for quite a while and I think it's safe to say that we've been there, done that.  Then, too, the combination of 'evil lurks in the Catholic church' with allegations of sexual abuse and pedophilia feels at times like an attempt to capitalize on semi-recent events (as well as a possible attempt to defend the church by laying the ultimate blame on supernatural forces). 

I was much more moved by Crockett's personal, small stakes problem than by the huge evil revealed later on.  The simple reality is that, for a generation raised in an era of Megan's laws and priest child abuse allegations, the horror of being falsely accused and framed for pedophilia and sexual abuse of children may well be far scarier than any demonic takeover.  Particularly for Crockett, a teacher and divorced father, the consequences would be devastating and inescapable.  We are given a glimpse of the extent of the social isolation that comes with such allegations, as Crockett is despised by law enforcement, spurned by his attorney, and utterly rejected by his ex-wife.  These are crimes the mere accusation of which is enough to ruin an otherwise well-liked and respected man.  And when those allegations are supported by false--but condemning--evidence, Crockett is utterly helpless to restore his good name.  (Indeed, although Crockett is fully exonerated at the end of the book, the fact remains that the allegations themselves will still be part of Crockett's record, and may plague him for years and years.  Some slates can never be wiped clean.)

As the focus of the book shifts from Crockett's personal nightmare to the folks orchestrating it, the stakes, though higher, become less compelling.  The characters are not particularly fleshed-out, and some of the puzzle pieces are unnecessarily withheld until the end of the book in an effort to ramp up the tension and make the 'big reveal' more explosive.  Still, the writing was fairly good, and the plot--particularly in the opening chapters--was intense and suspenseful. 

Bottom line:  a decent supernatural thriller, with no explicit sex scenes or graphic violence.  The content is certainly mature in that it deals with some pretty icky stuff.  But the descriptions themselves are mercifully vague.  It's a quick read, too, and there are certainly worse ways to kill a few hours. 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Great review!

Hugs and have a great week!!! :O)