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Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review:Predator

Unrelated to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

Premise:After an online predator murders a teenager, her grief-stricken sister and the creator of a social networking site search for the killer.

Author:Terri Blackstock

Genres:Crime, thriller

Notes:Cover taken from Terri Blackstock's website.

Pros:Twisted villain. Chapters from the killer's perspective. Will encourage people to be more careful about what they post online. Isn't shy about showing how horrible predators can be. Ryan's buddy.

Cons:Characters are hard to like, especially the father. Unsatisfying ending. The attempt at romance. Blames computers and the internet for evil. Doesn't deal with Krista's faith crisis satisfactorily.

Losing a treasured family member is always hard. It's particularly hard if they were young, and died suffering. Poor Ella Carmichael is such a person. Stalked on GrapeVyne (a fictional social networking site), beaten, raped, and buried alive in the woods. Now her father David is vengeful and suicidal, and her sister Krista is desperate to find the man responsible. Even if she has to go through Ryan Adkins, the creator of GrapeVyne, to do it.

Throughout the book, four characters have chapters from their point of view:Krista, Ryan, David, and later on, the killer's. The latter are few (to avoid revealing his identity), but they're worthwhile. And many Christian stories seem to shy away from getting very disturbing. This book does not. It uses some violent imagery that lets you know this guy is not playing around. And I did like Ryan's friend Ian.

I understand that losing a child, especially in so horrible a manner, will devastate her family. But with the dad, it seems mostly to just give him an excuse to take matters into his own hands and plan the violent end of anyone he thinks attacked his little girl. I would have been fine if the chapters from his perspective had been left out. Krista is a bit annoying in this area too, but at least she gets better about it.

Another problem is the way the characters treat the internet. Anyone who points out that GrapeVyne didn't cause the attack is shot down. And as Ryan points out, Krista uses it for good. They also act like if they constantly warn people about the dangers of online predators, it will stop anyone else from being hurt, even though it's mentioned that most people will just ignore it.

With the book being aimed at a Christian audience, Krista has doubts about her faith following Ella's murder. Why did God let her sister die? Why did she suffer the way she did? How can she continue to teach girls biblical lessons when her own faith is so shaken? These are good questions, but I don't feel like they were resolved or addressed well in the end. On another note, a romance is played up between Krista and Ryan (who is a former Christian). It doesn't help the plot and this is another thing I would have been fine without.

I want to complain about the ending.
After all the build-up about David planning to kill the murderer and then himself, it ends with him instead killing the dogs attacking the murderer and waiting for the police. The guy then dies from his injuries. This is a big cop-out. In fact, if the author wanted the villain to die, I would have preferred an epilogue taking place years later saying he was arrested and executed.
End spoilers

This is basically the equivalent of watching a made-for-TV crime flick. It's something you might borrow from the library and read through it (the book that is) on a boring afternoon, but it's not particularly memorable.

Sex:The killer rapes his victims before murdering them. A survivor hopes he's put in prison with the worst inmates and "gets a taste" of what he did. Krista works with girls who are involved in the sex industry, teen moms, and victims of sexual abuse. Mention is made of men raping their daughters.
Krista's online alias flirts with a user claiming to be a teenager. The staff Ryan hires to delete pornographic pictures from GrapeVyne are all female, since he worries men might get hung up on it. A teenager shares lots of personal information, including how intimate she gets with her boyfriends.
On the lighter side, Ian teases Ryan about his feelings for Krista and says he'll ask her out if Ryan won't. He also wishes he had a hot chick to get his mind off a problem.

Violence:The killer beats his victims badly in addition to raping them. A survivor winds up in the hospital with a torn/blown-out knee, a dislocated jaw, bruises, and broken bones. A murder scene is covered in the victim's blood. A girl desperately thinks of what she can use to hurt her attacker and get away from him. David chokes someone he thinks hurt Ella.
Krista buys a gun she plans to use on the killer once she finds him, in spite of her worries about what could go wrong with the weapon. Meanwhile, the pervert carries a gun of his own he's not shy about firing. He binds one girl's wrists so tight it causes her pain and removes a different girl's leg brace so he can rape her.
A car is shot at and run off the road. An apartment is set on fire. The inner city is a location full of gang violence. Some of the girls Krista helps are abused. One mentions her brother was shot in the head and her mother was beaten until her skull cracked. Megan imagines the killer shooting her entire class just to ensure her death. David considers ways to commit suicide, like shooting himself, driving off an overpass, or taking pills.
Again on the lighter side, Ian jokes he'd rather be shot, thrown off a cliff, and torn apart by a rabid leopard than sit through a meeting.

Drugs/Alcohol:Several of the girls Krista helps either are or know someone mixed up in drugs. Mention is made of her passing a liquor store and drug dealers on her way to the building. Teenagers smoke in the background. David is given sleep medication, but he doesn't use it. Krista checks the prescription drugs they keep in the house to make sure he can't harm himself with them.

Language:A character curses, but the actual words aren't stated.

Spiritual:Multiple references are made to God, heaven, and scripture. One victim is given a religious funeral. Krista works at a ministry called Eagle's Wings (which gets its name from Isaiah 40:31) that helps teenage girls. She and her family are regular churchgoers. Ryan was raised Christian, but it's not until he meets Krista that he gets back into church and God. He says he still believes in God and that church should be authentic, not a list of don'ts. When she invites him to church, she also asks his roommate, Ian, who says he can't because he's Jewish. Ryan retorts that's not true. Ian says he was thinking of converting. Ryan calls his mother the casserole queen at church.
Krista has a crisis of faith following her sister's murder, as does her father. One of the girls she helps asks her about it and how she can continue to believe God is good. Krista herself wonders that same thing. The killer targets Christian girls, calling them naive and innocent. Characters pray during desperate situations.

So what did you think?

© 2016 by M.R.R.

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