"The man with the mask came back. He wore the mask while he hurt her again. He promised if she told anyone, he would come back and kill her and then kill the people of the house. So she didn't tell anyone. She tried to believe it was a dream. A very bad dream. But some nights she would wake up and shiver and cry..."
There is not much to be guessed from the title of this book, but flipping to page one reveals a dark, intense, curtly-written story about Jamie Piper, a girl who has a dark history with a pagan cult group and who can sense the evil emanating from people, crippling her ability to live a normal and fearless life. We are only given a glimpse of Jamie's hellish early life, but after a few more chapters we realize what a precious thing was taken from her in those racing few sentences describing a run-in with "The Prince", the masked leader of a cult group, a group of hooded robes and sacrificial ritual marches, seeming like "scary people in Scooby Doo cartoons". Jamie is later portrayed as a scared preteen, stripped of her femininity, a trouble child passed from foster home to foster home because she cannot keep herself from howling and hiding when the evil approaches her with icy fingers.
When Jamie flees to the house of her teacher, Crockett Grey, who is drinking away the anniversary of his dead daughter, she is apprehended by the police and a scandal ensues. A teacher with a history of child harassment reports, being caught with a young girl in his bedroom in the middle of the night, insisting his weak argument that she had been scared and had come to him seeking help? Doubled with the skepticism and unwillingness to help dumped on Crockett's head by a cynical lawyer, the conspiracy embroils until the clash between good and evil, the plausibility of demonic possession, and the reality of exorcism all touches upon the raw secrets of the highest seat of power: the Vatican.
While sex scandals combined with the mere word "Vatican" are becoming a fictitious topic of interest, especially among writers of spiritual thrillers, most are not worth touching and leave the reader with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. The Canary List was a pleasant surprise and redeemed itself from becoming mainstream and cliche by the simple fact that the writing is good. Speckled with surprising descriptions, tight sentences crammed with adrenalin, and screeching halts that bring the reality of evil into perspective, it can definitely be classified as a page turner.
That said, the nearness of God in the middle of so much evil, doubt, and shadowbox play with the subject of demons (one character is demon-possessed, and mention of historical demons are mentioned throughout in the assumption that demons do indeed exist) seems insufficient. Had the moral of the story been clearer, or perhaps the resolution of Jamie's ascent from her crippling fear of evil been a bit more accentuated, the atmosphere of the book might not have been so downcast. The subjects addressed in this book are also troubling: Crockett does not deny the implications of a hard drive full of child porn in his attic, and he is labeled a pedophile after losing the case for his innocence over the Jamie scandal. Crockett was portrayed as a weak, emotionally unstable man, and whether he is repentant and able to move on with his life once the story ends is unclear.
So while the writing is beautiful and deserves the Publisher's Weekly compliment of being "addictively readable", the content is such that only the most interested, and those who do not mind watching spiritual maturity being encroached by unseen forces parading across the pages, should read this gripping book.
FTC disclaimer: "I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review"
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