The Sanctuary, by Ted Dekker

The Sanctuary
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  The Sanctuary is the gripping story of vigilante priest, Danny Hansen, who is now serving a fifty year prison term in California for the murder of two abusive men. Filled with remorse, Danny is determined to live out his days by a code of non-violence and maneuvers deftly within a ruthless prison system.

But when Renee Gilmore, the woman he loves, receives a box containing a bloody finger and draconian demands from a mysterious enemy on the outside, Danny must find a way to escape.

They are both drawn into a terrifying game of life and death. If Renee fails, the priest will die; if Danny fails, Renee will die. And the body count will not stop at two.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Ted Dekker (born October 24, 1962) is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is best known for stories which could be broadly described as suspense thrillers with major twists and unforgettable characters, though he has also made a name for himself among fantasy fans.

Dekker was born to missionaries who lived among the headhunter tribes of Indonesia. Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

SERIES:  The Sanctuary is the continuation of Danny and Renee's story, which started in The Priest's Graveyard.

PARENTAL RATING:  This one earns an R in our house, due to the realistic depiction of violence.  Considering the style and setting of this story, it was totally appropriate.  However, my girls are a bit too sensitive for this level of gruesome, and, to be honest, I had to skim through some parts myself, to be sure I could sleep at night.

MY THOUGHTS:  Don't read this book if you want to go on believing that justice always prevails. Don't read this book if you prefer your heroes perfect and sinless. Don't read this book if you want to guess the ending before you are halfway through.  But if you are looking for suspense, thrills, and a story that draws you so far in that you're afraid to even jaywalk, this won't disappoint.

I did not read The Priest's Graveyard, the story of a vigilante priest who exacts justice on criminals who've slipped through the system, but I didn't have any trouble picking where this second book begins.  As Danny does his time in an experimental prison with a new set of rules, he finds himself in the middle of a game of vengeance, power, and insanity.  Renee is pulled in, and with the help of a former cop, must find a way to determine who the mastermind is behind the twisted game they are forced to play.  All the while, Danny is struggling with his vow of non-violence, unsure of how he'll keep his promise when he is surrounded by threats, torture, and now the involvement of the woman he lives for.

The reality of life in prison is fascinating, albeit difficult to think about.  Dekker paints an all-too-real picture of the culture that exists within the walls of this alternative society, drawing us into a world where normal rules don't apply, where only the strong survive, where prisoners enter as men and leave as monsters.  And where sometimes, innocent people can't escape from the living hell they've been thrown into.

Although I prefer Dekker's fantasy novels, I can't deny that I was unable to put this book down, except for those times when I was very disturbed and needed to step away from the pages.  It was that real.  And it has renewed my zeal to pray for those in the criminal justice system, whether guilty or innocent of the crimes they are being punished for.

**I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

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