Deadline, Dominion, Deception

I ordered a collection of mysteries; I received a treatise on the ills of late-twentieth-century American society, with creative interpretations of life after death thrown in.

In the first novel of this collection, Deadline, Randy Alcorn takes on… a lot. Unfortunately, as is typical of Christian fiction, worldview overwhelms art. Jake Woods’ spiritual journey is more compelling than the mystery, but would be better told more succinctly. Neither journey nor mystery is strong enough to bear the weight of issues about which the author is clearly passionate. The book felt more like listening to arguments than reading a story.

As part of an “Ollie Chandler omnibus,” I expected more Ollie and for development of the character to be part of this book. But the Ollie to whom we are finally introduced is the same Ollie who predictably comes through in the end, which might not be bad if he wasn’t the slovenly, wise-cracking, overworked detective all-to-common in crime novels and bad TV shows.

It’s a first novel, I told myself, and gave the second a chance. Where the opening of Deadline had failed to catch my interest, Dominion shoved it away with a gun-wielding, crack-cocaine-carrying, angry young man’s use of the terms “homeboys,” “hood,” and “little homie.” This attempt to sound like a character rang as false as several from the previous book. Each of these characters is very different, in his or her own way, from the author. The Chinese man who made a brief appearance in Deadline was the worst, nothing better than a stereotype. And though Mr. Alcorn means no disrespect to individuals with Down Syndrome (he repeatedly clarifies his understanding that they are special in the best sense of the word) Little Finn’s lines made me cringe.

Before giving up, I dipped into random places. The author’s focus was again more his perspective on social issues than storytelling, but there was some improvement in the area of showing instead of telling.

The author’s style further evolved in Deception, which is largely written from Detective Ollie Chandler’s perspective. First-person. I’m sure there are popular-mystery readers who would find his thoughts and sayings colorful. But if you’ve read this review up to this point, you might guess that I disliked someone trying to put me in this character’s head. I read even less of this novel than number two, but feel I’ve read enough of the collection to give a thoughtful review. I’m sure Ollie solved his mystery, and given the type of book, I assume he found his way to Christ. But I have no desire to find out what happened to Ollie Chandler because he never became more than a fictional character to me. I guess instead of a fatal flaw, he had a murderous one – he killed my interest. And, yes, I found his one-liners even worse than that one.

It’s uncomfortable to post negative reviews, especially of books from authors who obviously mean well and seek to honor our Father, authors with whom I agree on many issues. Though I do not recommend these books, I know that Mr. Alcorn will continue to find solid readership and I wish him well.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers’ Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. 

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