Ted Dekker's fast-paced, heart-pulsing plots always deliver excitement and intrigue. However, for Christians, Dekker's subtler message of worldview, faith and philosophy as worked out through his characters' thoughts and lives is the better catch. While the story is a page-turner, more often than not careful readers must step back, pause for a few moments of contemplation and ask themselves if they agree with Dekker's premises on living out a life of faith in such an anti-Christian world. Further, there are specific instances when Dekker's fans must take it slow enough to digest the questions he poses and intermittently prods fellow believers to examine for themselves.
In SAINT, protagonist Carl Strople awakens to find a series of disconcerting circumstances facing him. He is tied to a bed next to a distraught woman who seems familiar, but he's not quite certain. Within moments of fully awakening, Carl witnesses an assassin shoot his "wife" in the leg and threatens to kill their young son as well if he doesn't comply with their demands. Carl's job is to kill an unknown couple within the hour or his family dies. With a foggy recollection of how he got there and who he is, Carl attempts to piece together his past. But others have conspired to keep Carl's history a secret, and they've spent months, drugs and torture to assure their success.
As Carl sets off to kill in order to rescue, the paradoxical storyline begins. Throughout the coming days, Carl does as he's told; his handler, Kelly, with whom he falls in love, manipulates him. He endures further grueling training exercises to press beyond normal human capacities all because he's been chosen as an elite killer. Although Carl finds ways to shut off his emotions in order to endure unimaginable pain, a deeper truth whispers in the backdrop of his mind.
This inner voice grows stronger as the events surrounding Carl's mission become more intense. Carl wants to succeed, but something inside is holding him back. Between desiring to please Kelly and prove his abilities, Carl's conscience stirs at precisely the wrong time. The mission fails and Carl and Kelly walk through doors they hadn't dreamt existed as Carl searches out the truth to his past. What he finds will change both of their lives forever, and Carl's identity and future become more dependent on learning what happened some 12 years previously.
Old friends, family and acquaintances serve to remind Carl of his past while present-day enemies execute a search and destroy mission to eliminate him. Carl discovers that memories of the past can provide the most powerful offensive tactics, but first they have to be roused and recognized. As is his habit, Dekker does a superb job of simultaneously wrapping up a story while leaving some open-ended questions still waiting for resolution in his next installment. Faithful fans won't be disappointed with SAINT.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on September 30, 2006