Thr3e, by Ted Dekker

thr3eTitle: Thr3e

Author: Dekker, Ted (Author’s Website)

Genre: Christian fiction, Christian romantic suspense

Bibliographic: Thomas Nelson, 400 pages, Paperback List Price $16.99, Mass Market Paperback List Price $7.20, Unabridged Audiobook List Price $24.49, Abridged Audiobook List Price $15.11, Audiobook CD List Price $34.99, ISBNs

Publication Date: June 1, 2003

Rating: ★★☆☆☆/♥♥♥♡♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Plot-driven, fast-paced, suspenseful, compelling

Why I picked it up: Genreflecting identified it as a “must read” Christian novel, and my library had a copy available.

S.I.A.S.: Kevin has been given three minutes to confess his sin or suffer the consequences, and that’s just the beginning.

Summary: One day on his drive home, seminary student Kevin Parson’s cell phone rings. The caller is a man named Richard Slater, who gives Kevin an warning: if he does not call the media and confess his sin to the world within three minutes, the bomb attached to his car will go off. Kevin immediately pulls off the road and gets out of his car before it does, in fact, blow up. (Nobody is hurt.) When the explosion starts to get media attention, his childhood friend Samantha Sheer comes to stay with him. She works for the California Bureau of Investigation, and thinks she might be able to figure it out. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sent an agent named Jennifer Peters  to take over the case, since it looks like it might be the work of a serial killer she’s been tracking.

When Kevin gets home, he gets another phone call from Slater — this time, he has to solve a riddle or confess his sin within half an hour or his “best friend” will be killed. Kevin is initially at a loss as to who that might be, but figures it out just in time to watch his family’s doghouse explode. At the house where he grew up, he has a bit of a run-in with the woman who raised him. Kevin’s biological parents were killed in a car accident when he was very young, and so his aunt Balinda adopted him and took him in. Kevin doesn’t like to go to Balinda’s house, since he was badly mistreated there.

Slater keeps calling, always offering Kevin the same chance: confess his sin, or solve a riddle within a specified about of time to prevent massive violence and bloodshed. With Sam and Jennifer helping him, Kevin continues to try to solve the riddles, and eventually finds himself in a showdown with Slater.

Evaluation: Despite Genreflecting‘s insistence that Thr3e is a must-read, I honestly can’t see myself ever recommending this book to anybody. The characters just don’t seem like real people, with the possible exception of Dr. John Francis — a minor character whose main purpose is to give the other characters an excuse to talk about theology. Slater is a terrible villain– there is no rhyme or reason to his character. For example, throughout the book he insists that Kevin can not call the police, yet he has no problem with Kevin calling the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Does he only mean local police? He never says, even when asked directly, and the FBI has no problem with the distinction. The setting was bland and not well-described: I know the book took place in California, but not the time of year or the temperature or anything else that ties the book to a specific time or location.

I did not find this book at all enjoyable to read. The writing was mediocre, at best. For example, the following paragraph appears at the top of page 76:  “Everything except his speculation that Slater could be the boy. He’d never told Sam the whole truth about the boy, and he wasn’t eager to do so now. If Slater wasn’t the boy, which he claimed not to be, there was no need to dig up that matter. He’d never told Sam the whole truth and he wasn’t eager to do so now.” The sentences are awkward and, even in this short sample, very repetitive. This is typical of the rest of the book.

I also thought the ending was terrible. I don’t want to spoil it, in case someone reads this review and decides to forge ahead with the book anyway, but I am tired of this trope. Furthermore, I thought that this was really an insensitive portrayal of a person with a very serious mental illness, which is a big part of why I wouldn’t be comfortable encouraging someone else to read it.

Significance: Thr3e is a fairly well-known book and is considered important in its genre. It was made into a movie, as well, in 2006.

Readalikes: Before I Wake, by Dee Henderson. If I Run, by Terri Blackstock. Stand Your Ground, by Victoria Christopher Murray.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Throughout the novel, Kevin struggles with the nature of man. Do you agree with his assertion that all men are made of good, evil, and the human caught between them?
  2. Were you surprised to find out Slater’s true relationship to Kevin? What about the relationship between him, Kevin, and Sam?
  3. What did you think of Kevin and Jennifer’s relationship? How does the end of the book imply their relationship will grow and change in the future?
  4. This book is often classified as “Christian fiction.” Is this accurate? Why or why not?
  5. Jennifer makes some unusual choices in the way she handles the case. As an officer of the law, does she behave ethically? What about more generally, as a person?

Lists and Awards: ECPA Christian Book Award for Fiction (2004). Christy Award for Suspense/Mystery (2004).

Professional Reviews:  Publishers Weekly. New Release Today.

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