By Kelly Bridgewater
Zachary Bartels debut novel, Playing Saint, hit the bookshelves on October 7th and has been getting quite a buzz around the book world. As an avid reader of suspense and interested in aspects of the darker side of Christianity, I was hooked when I read the blurb on Amazon,
which reads, “Yesterday, Parker Saint’s only concern was his swiftly rising star power. Today, he’s just trying to stay alive. Parker Saint is living the dream. A cushy job at a thriving megachurch has him on the verge of becoming a bestselling author and broadcast celebrity—until his life takes an abrupt turn that lands him on the wrong side of the law. To avoid a public scandal, he agrees to consult with the police on a series of brutal murders linked by strange religious symbols scrawled on each victim.
Parker tries to play the expert, but he is clearly in over his head. Drawn ever deeper into a web of intrigue involving a demanding detective, a trio of secretive Vatican operatives, and a centuries-old conspiracy to conceal a mysterious relic, he realizes for the first time that the battle between god and evil is all too real—and that the killer is coming back . . . this time for him.”
Bartel does a good job at creating a plot with dead bodies piling up everywhere with occult symbols carved into their skin. I couldn’t put the book down. I hated having to go to sleep. I wanted to finish the rest of the book because I had to know if the person who Parker Saint and the police allowed you to believe was the demon possessed man was actually the murderer. I enjoyed how Parker Saint doubted the megachurch he was creating. It helped tie the story to today’s megachurches and how the pastors appear to just want the fame and power. It was relevant to today’s culture.
I have seen very few writers outside of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, and Steven James, whose writings I love by the way, who venture into the area of demon possession in their plots. Bartel reminds the reader of the parts of the Jesus’ ministry where he touched on the object of demons. I wrote down the Scripture references, so I could go back and study them for myself.
I did have one tiny problem with the plot. Bartel tells you who the real killer is about eighty percent into the book (at least, that is where my Kindle tells me). Bartel uses flashback incidents to show how the demon possessed character became filled with demons, and in one of those moments, unveils the actual killer’s name. I would have enjoyed watching Parker come across the evidence to discover the real killer. As soon as Bartel “spoils” the story, the rest of the climax dragged on for me. The demon-filled killer kept chasing Parker around for the rest of the book and destroying Parker’s body until the final couple of pages, which disappointed me. I bet the ending would have been stronger if Bartel didn’t lay the cards on the table too soon.
This story was unique and well-written. I can’t wait to see what other suspense stories Bartel writes because I will definitely be lining up to purchase that book too. According to his Facebook page and his personal website, Bartel’s next book will be released in June 2015 and will be called The Last Con.
You can connect with Zachary Bartels through his website at www.zacharybartels.com.
And look for Zachary Bartels, Author on Facebook.
I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson through Net Galley in exchange for my honest opinion, and the opinions above are completely my own.