Tag Archives: mystery

Conspiracies, Mysteries, Secret Societies – Ohh My!

As a child I somehow acquired several books along the lines of Reader’s Digest’s Unsolved Mysteries of the Past¬†and I always loved these sorts of books – learning about all the things that we can’t quite explain or understand. More recently I read (and reviewed) Man, Myth, & Magic (Vol. 1).

mystery box

More recently I picked up Brad and Sherry Steiger’s Conspiracies and Secret Societies. This volume was an enjoyable read, unfortunately, it lacked the more detailed methodology I prefer when reading these sort of books.

Namely, there is a bibliography at the end of the work but no notes on which articles utilized which bibliographic resources – and the bibliographic resources are quite varied in quality. Additionally, while the Steiger’s indicate they are taking a neutral voice, they oftentimes state things as if they were true and it is unclear whether they are pronouncing known facts or simply explaining the position of those who believe in x conspiracy.

All said, I can’t recommend the book as a reliable reference work, but it does provide a nifty jumping off point to learn about various conspiracies. Just keep in mind that what you read may be fanciful imaginings.

What I really wanted to share in this post is my list of interesting topics from the work – the things I’ve found interesting or would like to research further in the future (this is something I do recreationally). The reasons I am interested in various topics varies just as much as the topics – sometimes I think the idea is plausible while at other times I find the idea so implausible I want to know more about those who dreamed up such and such. Others seem far-fetched but are interesting enough for further exploration…

Topic Note
AIDS/HIV Origins of the disease.
Airship of 1897 What was it? Mass delusion?
Alchemy Predecessor to chemistry, attempted to turn base metals into gold.
Alien Abductions
Al-Qaeda Origins, relationships.
Alternative 3 Was there a 1960’s secret space program that sent a group of our brightest to colonize the moon?
American Protective Association Tried to keep Roman Catholics out of political office.
Anarchists On the Steiners’ list: William Godwin, Max Stirner, Henry David Thoreau, Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Noam Chomsky.
Anthrosophy Founded by Rudolf Steiner.
Apocalyptic Millennialism Variety and history of beliefs about the end times.
Army of God Anti-Abortionist Terrorists.
Aum Shinrikyo Means “Supreme Truth” – a relatively recent (1987) cult responsible for terrorism¬†in Japan.
B-25 Ghost Bomber Where did this bomber disappear to after crashing into a river?
Dr. Fred Bell Died after being on Jesse Ventura’s conspiracy show, invented the “X-1 Healing Machine”, etc.

Okay that is enough for one day…I’ll add some more of the topics I found interesting another time.

Book Review: The Sanctuary (Ted Dekker)

The Sanctuary
The Sanctuary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ted Dekker is a prolific author who I’ve written about previously. You may remember my review of The Bride Collector, BoneMan’s Daughters, or Adam. If you were to page through those reviews you would notice that I’ve read a lot of Ted Dekker (Saint, Showdown, Sinner, Thr3e, House, and Skin would be added to the list). You might also notice that I find myself an inconsistent reviewer of Dekker. That is, I’m not consistently positively or negatively reviewing Dekker – one book I’ll enjoy, the next is just so-so, and there was even Obsession which I never did manage to finish reading.

The Sanctuary falls, in my humble opinion, into the so-so series of books written by Dekker. It tells the story of Danny Hansen (whom we have previously met in The Priest’s Graveyard – a book I have not yet read – oops), a soldier turned priest who can’t stand injustice and has taken innumerable lives in an effort to save the helpless from their abusers. Now Danny has been sent to prison for two murders he didn’t commit and this prison is a strange place called Basal or “The Sanctuary.” Run by Warden Marshall Pape it is founded on new philosophies of prison management that Pape believes will allow society to finally reform prisoners into useful members of society. At the same time, Hansen’s beloved, Renee is on the outside desperately trying to save Hansen from mysterious threats against his life.

This book feels to me as if it was written about the prison system and justice. That Dekker is trying to help his readers understand some of the weaknesses systemic in the justice system while at the same time probing for himself the philosophical balance between defending the innocent and a commitment to non-violence / conformity to the law. This is very similar to the way I felt about The Bride Collector, which seemed to be talking about mental illness with a story wrapped around it.

Unfortunately – while mental illness, the prison system, and justice (more generally) are excellent topics to work through in a book – I don’t feel that Dekker has mastered the art of combining commentary and dialogue on serious topics with fictional content. Who has? The first name that comes to mind is Dostoevsky. In Crime and Punishment, for example, he writes a somewhat exhausting book which carefully considers what happens to a man who attempts to unbind himself for morality. Another example, though more in the theological realm is Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir, which carefully balances a gripping narrative with a philosophical consideration of the supernatural’s role in our lives.

In the end, the book is another thriller. If you are looking for something to fill your time – The Sanctuary will do – but it isn’t groundbreaking or revelatory. It aspires to be more than a thriller and certainly communicates somewhat the weaknesses present in the justice system. But it doesn’t reach my (albeit high) standard for amazing books really worth your time. For that, turn to Dekker’s Adam or Thr3e, Peretti’s Oath, or Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir.

Fiction Book Review: Adam (Author: Ted Dekker).

Cover of "Adam"
Cover of Adam

Ted Dekker Generally:

The first book I read by Ted Dekker was Thr3e, which I enjoyed thoroughly from start to end. But then it felt like Dekker hit a dry spell. I read House which he had co-authored with Frank Peretti[1] and it disappointed thoroughly. House seemed to lack real story (as most horror does) and focused on an extremely fragmented narrative.[2]

After that it was Showdown and Saint (The Paradise Series), both of which I found somewhat boring – probably due to the imaginative storyline which felt just a bit too fantastical for my tastes. I picked up Obsessed but never was obsessed with it and haven’t finished it yet (not sure if I will). I’d heard good things about his Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, and White) but have avoided them out of my distaste for The Paradise Novels.

I stopped by the library recently and picked up two of his latest – Skin and Adam. I read Skin first. I was solidly disappointed yet again. I was tempted to just return Adam without even a second glance. I’m not trying to say Dekker’s books where awful – they weren’t – they were okay, good, average. They just weren’t great and I have a reading list a mile long. I decided to give it a try anyways – a few pages, then put it aside. Dekker grabbed me in the first several pages and wouldn’t let me go. Wow! By the end Charity had joined me and we were reading the story together. We both agreed that it was his most mature work to date. In fact, I would consider it a masterpiece in its genre.

Synopsis:

Daniel Clark works for the FBI and is hunting down a mysterious serial killer known only as “Eve” for taking innocent women and murdering them via a lethal biological injection. Clark has been hard on Eve’s trail for a long time and has lost his marriage over his obsession to catch Eve. Now it seems that Clark is finally getting close, but Eve outsmarts him again – shooting him in the head and killing him. Miraculously, Clark is resuscitated, but not without losing his memory of the killer’s face. The key to capturing this devious criminal is locked in his damaged mind.

Okay, so the storyline isn’t perhaps all that different from any number of other crime thrillers, or for that matter many of Dekker’s other stories – but the execution is flawless. Dekker interweaves the current narrative of the serial killer chase with fictitious newspaper articles written after the case describing the evolution of Alex Price (Eve) from a man into a killer.

There are only so many times one can read a crime thriller. They pretty much have the same narrative structure and storyline – bad guy kills people, bad guy gets caught. Flesh it out and you have your story. So how does one separate oneself from the masses? Dekker does it (and rightly so) by asking deeply philosophical (and theological) questions via his narrative[3], specifically, “What is it that causes an individual to become a serial killer? Is one born as such or bred as such? Can a good man become a bad one?” This questions can be asked in a heavy-handed manner that demands a certain pathway be followed and fails to truly explore the questions and accept the unanswered dimensions, but Dekker succeeds in asking these questions in a way that feels real and authentic.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a thrilling read, Adam is a great place to look. I have read few books that have grabbed me in such a firm way – and that I look back on with deep thoughts. I think the question of the darkest edges of humanity (e.g. serial killers) fascinates us because we believe at some point that it gives us insight into the whole of humanity. We want to understand how we can aberrate so far – we want to find an answer. Dekker encourages us to search our souls for the right answers.[4]

  1. [1]Peretti is probably my favorite fiction writer, especially in the Christian genre. He, however, also disappointed me first with Monster and then with House.
  2. [2]By this I mean the book is told in small segments, swapping back and forth between characters, times, places, etc. This is fine when done in moderation (e.g. one chapter about one character, the next about another), but when it becomes pervasive it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I consider it an artificial method of creating a driving thriller. Instead of real substance one breaks up the story in a way that feels “fast-paced” but if placed in order would simply feel simplistic and dull.
  3. [3]He does this in some of his other novels, but generally I have found the execution flawed with the exception of Thr3e and Adam.
  4. [4]This book is not a pure criminal thriller. If you want to get an idea of the secret twist (which makes the story even more frightening) click here, it’ll take you to a book referenced in the novel that is tightly intertwined with the plot – but warning – its a spoiler!