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Ted Dekker, . . WestBow, $24.99 (395pp) ISBN 978-1-5955-4277-9

Derivative of such puzzle dramas as Lost , The Usual Suspects , Fight Club and The Matrix , this thriller by Dekker (Thr3e ; Blink ) reads more like a screenplay than a novel. Its third-person omniscient narrator includes mostly dialogue, blocking and description of scenery and little else. Early in the novel, five young adults are sucked into a serial killer's evil game. While experienced Dekker readers will see some of what is coming, a number of plot points are entirely unpredictable, due in large part to the constant barrage of red herrings the reader must endure before discovering the novel's final revelations. Unfortunately, the dialogue-dominated prose is hackneyed and juvenile; a reason is given for the childishness of some of the language, but this does not fully excuse the many clichéd passages of the book. These problems, however, are secondary to the novel's central flaw, which is that the ambitiously twisty plot does not make sense. The characters' backstories are implausible, and their actions and experiences in the present never quite add up. The novel is clearly intended to be a challenging exploration of the nature of beauty, morality and truth, but despite having put lots of words about these concepts in his confused characters' mouths, Dekker offers no new insights. (Apr. 3)