By Ted Dekker
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Good vs. evil. Sacrifice. Redemption. Love. These themes permeate most of the works by suspense author Ted Dekker. The Sanctuary is no exception.
A sequel to 2011’s The Priest’s Graveyard, The Sanctuary picks up 7 years after Graveyard, with former vigilante priest Danny Hansen in prison serving 50 years for two murders he didn’t commit, although he is far from innocent. Filled with remorse for the men he has killed, Danny has vowed to live the rest of his life by a code of non-violence. The love of his life, Renee Gilmore, is attempting to keep her life together without her savior — the man who is spending the rest of his life in prison for two murders she committed.
While far from idyllic, the two have settled into relatively comfortable routines in their respective lives — Danny in prison and Renee in a prison of her own making — until that normalcy is shaken to its foundations. On the same day Danny is being transferred to a new experimental prison known as Basal, Renee receives a phone call threatening Danny’s life and a box containing a severed finger in the mail.
On the surface, Basal sounds like a paradise compared to the maximum security state-run prison Danny had survived three years in. But, the former priest quickly realizes that the warden of Basal considers himself the highest power, as he strives to help the “members” of his prison see the error of their ways, through whatever means necessary.
What follows is a tale that highlights the tendency of America’s corrections system to further harden criminals rather than rehabilitate them. Both Danny and Renee are pushed to their limits and beyond as their lives become merely chess pieces in a much bigger game with revenge as the end game. But who is seeking revenge and why? Is it the warden, or is he just another piece on the board?
Dekker creates believable characters to populate the prison setting and push Danny, with the help of the malevolent warden.
Once again Dekker makes you think long and hard about the meaning of love. What would you do for the person you loved most in the world? How much would you sacrifice? Would you give your life – literally or figuratively? I know I have often thought about what I would sacrifice for the ones I love. We all make sacrifices for our loved ones on a daily basis, but what would I really do when faced with the choice to make the greatest sacrifice possible? That’s something we all should think about, because you never know when you will be faced with that decision. I know what I would do.
Some readers were put off by the dark themes and violent undertones in The Sanctuary. My response to them is, what do you expect from a prison novel? Of course, coming from Dekker’s pen, it is very toned-down and under-played compared to much of the popular works in the genre.
The story of Danny and Renee struggling to hold strong in the face of incredible temptation and opposition, combined with the mystery of who was the mastermind of the whole plan, made The Sanctuary a very enjoyable read. I have to admit I did not know who the mastermind was until it was revealed.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I give The Sanctuary a 4.
Center Street provided a review copy in return for a fair and honest review.