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

16 comments:

  1. Great review!! I've put the first book on my wish list!

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  2. You know, I've never ever been tempted by anything in the Christian genre before. But this sounds interesting!! And the title is just awesome. :)

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  3. I read a lot of Christian suspense novels - probably one for every non-Christian book I read. Some of it's lacking, so I learn to skip those authors, but some of it's the best stuff I've read out of today's fiction.

    I haven't tried this series, but I guess I'll have to.

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  4. Great review Sam. As it so happens, I just received the first book in this series from paperbackswap.com and I have the second two wishlisted. I enjoy Christian fiction a great deal. Some is good, some isn't but I have found some real gems.

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  5. I tend to avoid Christian fiction because you never know which books will slip into preaching, which I'm not fond of. Sounds like this series is one I'd enjoy, however---religious angles don't bother me if they're just part of the milieu.

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  6. I'm another one who has avoided Christian fiction, but you've caught my interest with this one.

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  7. This really does sound good. I don't read much Christian fiction, either, and I've never heard of this author. This is one of the problems I have with putting books into categories. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I think many of us probably miss out on some really good writing because of the labels.

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  8. Let me know what you think of it, Kristina...hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  9. Eva, my tendency is to avoid anything labeled "Christian" too when it comes to the media because I always expect it to be a watered-down book, film, or recording. "My Soul to Keep" has given me a whole new perspective on what the genre can be like.

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  10. You're right, Annie. I'm sure the "Christian genre" is like any other one...it all comes down to the authors and their individual talent. I think I've found a good one in Melanie Wells.

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  11. I've ordered up the first in the series, Amy, and it's on the way. I'm looking forward to it and will find the second one sometime after finishing up book one. Let us know what you think of the series.

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  12. Heather, that's exactly the beauty of the way Melanie Wells handles the Christian themes of her writing...it is all seamless and part of the overall story. In fact, the book would not have worked at all without the Christian aspects of its plot. I think you'd like this one.

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  13. Jenclair, I'm with you on that...but this one has caused me to look at the genre through new eyes.

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  14. That's an excellent point, Lisa...it can be dangerous to be pigeonholed into one little genre, shutting out the largest segment of the reading public that way. I suppose being known as a "genre writer" has both pros and cons...it would be a good way to start out, I would think, but it might backfire in the long run. Interesting...

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  15. Is it too late to get in on this discussion? For what it's worth, I'm not into "Christian" as an adjective either - or the separate universe theory - segregated fiction and schools, etc to sanitize the "Christian" community. (someone will crucify me for this, for sure). I write (hopefully literate) fiction which happens to have spiritual themes. I try to make it subtle enough to get under your skin without smacking you over the head. Dylan's chief "christian" trait is her search for the humanity in people. That's what I want people to see. Other than that, she's quite a mess... as we all are. That's what makes her real. She's someone I wouldn't mind having a cocktail with. She'd probably wipe down the bar with HandiWipes.

    Thanks, everyone, for bothering to read and discuss my book. Every writer's dream...

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  16. Melanie, your approach to "Christian Lit" is perfect as you can tell from some of the responses, above.

    Thanks for stopping by. I do now have the first book in the series and plan to read it soon.

    Dylan is an interesting character, one that I can easily picture and enjoy following from book-to-book. She is a down-to-earth Texan with real world problems, lots of good intentions, and many of the regrets that life throws our way. she's real.

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