Jaimie Piper is a twelve-year-old girl with a powerful gift that is driving her crazy. She can detect evil in other people. This dark, overwhelming force has tormented her for years. When its latest manifestation threatens, she turns to her favorite teacher, Crocket Grey, for help.
His efforts to help Jaimie soon land Grey in the hottest water possible. He is accused of possessing child pornography and of molesting students. He is soon the target of a kidnapping and murder investigation. All this threatens not only his freedom, but his relationship with the son he loves.
Quickly, Crocket and Jaimie are swept into a cauldron of intrigue and death that reaches to the highest levels of the Vatican.
I have long been a fan of Sigmund Brouwer. His novels, The Weeping Chamber, and Wings of Dawn, are among my favorites. I looked forward to reconnecting with him in The Canary List.
I give this novel 3.5 stars. Brouwer’s style remains strong but the novel has the feel of being agenda-driven. He explores the role of demons in our world and especially within religious institutions and organizations. Through the experiences of his characters, we see how insidious the work of evil can be.
The story is well-written, the pace keeps moving, and Brouwer fills it with amazing twists and turns. The final twist is both a surprise yet inevitable in the context of the story.
There are many things to like in this book. Jaimie is a very believable twelve-year-old. One of Brouwer’s writing strengths is his ability to realistically portray children and teens. He rivals Orson Scott Card in this area.
Jaimie’s psychiatrist, Dr. MacKenzie, is another well-developed character. The influence of her own history on her actions is well-played with subtle hints so that the ultimate reveal catches the reader off guard yet makes sense.
Also well-done are the hints of potential romance between MacKenzie and Crocket.
While the story has the feel of being agenda-driven, Brouwer gives an honest portrayal of the Catholic Church. As a former Catholic, I don’t sense any overt church-bashing or condemnation.
There are some areas that make it difficult to give the novel more than 3.5 stars. One is the story bogs down on occasion with long expositional dialogue on the theology and history of demons, on the political machinations within the Vatican, and on the sexual abuse scandals within the Church.
Even though Crocket Grey is presented as the protagonist, he does not come across very strong in the role of hero. There are occasional flashes where he is determined to fight for his freedom and for his relationship with his son. These help the reader develop empathy for the man. But, except for these flashes, Grey seems to be carried along by the events in the story, rather than assuming a more active hero role. He does take bold action at times, but always gets caught and ends up in lower status positions with the rest of the characters. At the end, he is given a moral choice to make. The decision is clear, but the process he went through to make it is not.
To me, the real hero is Jaimie. But she is made almost a side note to Grey’s struggles and is off stage for long periods of time.
Overall, this is a good read that could have been better.
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