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I hadn't heard of Ted Dekker until coming across this in the library but something on the cover caught my attention and the blurb made it sound like my kind of thing. I'm glad I read this; okay, so it had its downsides but it was an engaging read nonetheless.
The front cover tells us that this is from the 'New York Times Bestselling Author', along with the tagline 'Seven Brides... For Seven Murders'. The Bride Collector fits in to the crime thriller genre and is an American FBI, detective, cops with guns kind of affair, which is what I'm really in to at the moment.
We're introduced to Special Agent Brad Raines with the FBI, who is put on the case of a murdered young woman. Found partially naked, tied to a pole like a crucifix and drained of blood, it's a startling scene. It appears the killer drilled holes in her feet, let the blood drain away, plugged the holes with putty and managed to leave without leaving a trace of evidence. That is, except for a note tucked in to the hole that's found when one of the plugs is removed. It's cryptic and makes little sense, but Brad's straight on to attempting to decode what seems to be a religious reference.
It seems that there's a serial killer at work with a master plan who believes he's employed by God. From the note and the scene, it appears the killer is taking the lives of 7 women to deliver to God as 'brides', with the seventh being the most beautiful of them all. And sure enough, it seems that is the plan when another body, and another, are discovered. As the notes left at each scene help bring about a tenuous lead and cryptic clue, Brad is lead to a 'mental institution' for those with extremely high intelligence. He doesn't know what he'll find or really why he's there, but he enlists the help of a group of the residents. The group includes one woman in particular, Paradise, who becomes increasingly of interest to Brad. Cue a potential love interest blossoming between them.
I won't say more on the premise except to say that as the plot unfolds more bits and pieces of the puzzle fall in to place, but the question remains: can Brad uncover the Bride Collector's identity before it's too late, before he kills another, before he commits his grand finale?
What I really liked about this was the depth of characters and their development throughout the book. We're given a richer sense of who each is, their relationships, how they feel and why they do what they do. This increased a sense of atmosphere and empathy, drawing the reader in to want to know more about the characters that they've warmed to. Or at least, that's what I found anyway. For instance, Brad Raines became increasingly three dimensional when we learn about the death of his first and only true love, of his fears and his feelings, so I warmed a lot to him.
What I found a little hit and miss was the sideline love interest, partly because I'm just not a big fan of the mushy stuff in crime novels. I found it a little too sickly sweet at times, and it did drag a tad, but I can see that it did also make it more gripping in the sense that because I liked Brad, I wanted things to work out. I'm not saying it was the most realistic of love plots but it fitted the storyline okay considering at first when I realised what was happening my first thought was 'you've got to be kidding me - there's a killer on the loose and you're busy falling in love?!'.
Being a big psychology fan I found the psychological aspects of the novel interesting. We're given perspectives from Brad as a detective trying to step in to the mind of the killer, from the residents who are suffering psychosis, and from the killer himself. Whilst it was intriguing and added more depth to the plot and characters, I did think that at times it was a little too obviously done. It could have been more 'under the surface' rather than in your face 'hmm so what's the killer thinking?', and it did drag a bit. That's the other little niggle I had; scenes were stretched quite a lot and at times it meant that the flow seemed a little slow. Having said that, it also meant that scenes were made more visual and were easier to imagine, so each semi-negative had a semi-positive to it with this novel, which balanced it out.
This is described as a 'searing, adrenaline-fuelled confrontation between good and evil'. There was action in parts and it was built up well in an atmosphere of suspense, but there was also intelligence, thoughtfulness and emotion, which gave The Bride Collector a sense of being well-rounded and intricate. All in all, most elements are in here that should cater to most readers, from action, suspense and detective work, to psychological intrigue and romance wrapped around a central storyline of a brutal serial killer.
This is one I would recommend but it does require some patience at times. For its flaws in pace and romance, however, it makes up for through its intelligence, atmosphere and depth.
376 pages over 42 chapters
[Also reviewed by me, gothic_moon, on Ciao]