Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Soul to Keep

Psychology professor Dylan Foster has a problem: a demon who has dedicated himself to destroying her sanity and her soul, an evil spirit by the name of Peter Terry who loves to torment her. The demon comes and goes but he knows so much about Dylan that he always pushes exactly the buttons that he knows will cause her greatest grief. Now, just when she is ready to enjoy a brief teaching break from Southern Methodist University, she is certain that he is back and that he has influenced the kidnapping of her friend Maria Chavez’s little boy.

Nicholas Chavez was snatched from a public park near Dallas right in the middle of a party to celebrate Christine Zocci’s fifth birthday. Christine, the daughter of another old friend of Dylan’s, is no ordinary little girl. She is highly sensitive to the supernatural and her brief glimpse of the kidnapper has somehow linked her to both him and to Nicholas. It is only after Christine is hospitalized for cardiac arrest and Dylan has spent some time talking with her that anyone realizes that Christine is offering clues about the missing boy’s whereabouts and condition. She is able to describe what Nicholas sees and how he feels, often exhibiting symptoms herself of whatever is physically or emotionally bothering the boy.

My Soul to Keep is the third Dylan Foster book, a Christian fiction series in which Dylan has been doing battle with demon Peter Terry. I have to admit that I am not overly familiar with the “Christian fiction” genre, especially Christian thrillers, but I can certainly understand the appeal after reading this Melanie Wells novel. Yes, it is about good vs. evil and, yes, demons and guardian angels are some of the book’s main characters. Dylan Thomas does appeal directly to God in prayer but she doesn’t really expect to always have her prayers answered. Melanie Wells presents her as a bit of a lazy Christian, someone who might not attend church regularly but who still believes in God and the lessons of Christianity, someone who plans to do better someday but has not quite gotten around to it yet.

Melanie Wells deals with brutal characters in her story but, in what might best distinguish My Soul to Keep as “Christian fiction,” she draws the line at letting her characters use some of the harsh street language that real-life thugs are so prone to use. Her dialogue brings them to the brink of some of those words but Wells stops at precisely the point where her readers will have to use their own imaginations in order to complete some sentences. She does this so naturally that even fans of the most hardcore mystery writing will hardly notice it.

My only regret is that I was unaware of this series before book three came my way. My Soul to Keep works as a stand-alone but it did take me a while to understand the true nature of the Peter Terry character. Readers new to the work of Melanie Wells might want to consider starting at book one in order to have a clearer understanding of the plot line that runs from book to book. As for me, I’m searching for copies of books one and two while looking forward to book four.

Rated at: 4.0

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