Jack and Pamela Crittendon live an ideal life: great marriage, beautiful daughters, a Christian household, nice home in a nice neighborhood… But when a dangerous stalker zeros in on them, their idyllic life begins to fall apart. While little by little the stalker seems to rob them of their peace, their security and their trust in God, Jack tries to keep his family safe and protected. Meanwhile, he is investigating the disappearance of a local pastor who has gone missing after leaving a suicide note in his office. As a journalist, Jack is committed to uncovering the truth behind the pastor’s mysterious disappearance to bring closure to his family. But nothing is what it seems, people are not who they say they are, no one knows what really happened and others prefer that it stays that way. With a pastor missing, his family in danger, a stalker on the loose and a double murder, everything is out of control and Jack’s world is upside down. Learning to trust God has never been more difficult… or more crucial.
As the story opens, the first scene was so great and scary it made me think twice about reading the book. The details and descriptions, together with our own imagination made for a very entertaining and frightful beginning. But 'Fear has a Name' is more of a drama than a thriller. Although there’s action and suspense, the story is more an unraveling of the characters’ inadequacies, fears, sins, pasts, tragedies, psychological issues, greed, hypocrisies and lies. It’s more of a good look into depression, its roots and consequences.
As we learn about the stalker, we can’t help but feel sorry for him and at the same time despise him. His depression has its roots in his parents, their Christian hypocrisy and their hate towards him. He feels unloved, unwanted and alone. He has his reasons for being who he is, for becoming that person, but nothing can justify his behavior. On the other hand, we have Pastor Evan. He has clinical depression and we can’t help but feel for him and at the same time be irritated by him. He is a great pastor, a great counselor who loves people and is genuinely interested in them. But the selfishness of his decisions, the disregard for his family and his self-centeredness was almost shocking.
The parallelisms between these two stories were nicely written: one with a good Christian home, the other from a hypocritical Christian household; both battling with depression, both on the run trying to escape their problems and their futures. A kidnapping of a person and a kidnapping of a soul.
However, as conflicted and as full of contradictions as these two characters are, Jack and Pamela are, well, bland. They are the main characters, but they just don’t grab our attention and interest as the others. Their actions are expected and their decisions, predictable.
Although the first few pages set the stage for what promised to be a great suspenseful ride, the drama overcomes the thriller and suspense and the story became more of an introspective look into the characters’ lives, their thoughts and feelings. We are privy to how they analyze their circumstances and to their internal reactions to everything, and it’s not good. Since most of the main characters are Christian, the story turns into a semi-sermon at almost every page, becoming too preachy and sometimes boring. Talking about God, his faithfulness, salvation, mercy, love and grace is wonderful; these are good news. But in a work of fiction, the repetition is unnecessary and makes the story monotonous.
We can still see glimpses of the author’s great ability to create tension and suspense, but they are fleeting. In a suspense/thriller the not knowing and guessing and discovering are the best parts, but here the stalker’s identity is revealed too soon and in an almost prosaic way. The same thing happens with Pastor Evan’s story, which made the story feel like running out of steam too early.
A wonderful beginning that gave way to an introspective drama that ended with a less than remarkable ending, 'Fear has a Name' does one thing very, very right: it gets to the core of our fears and the real solution for them: God. Through each struggle and problem, the characters, much like us, questioned God, His will and His reasoning. And as they learn and see God’s reassuring hand in everything, the reader ends up doing the same.
3 (or maybe 2.5) stars out of 5
3 (or maybe 2.5) stars out of 5
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, David C. Cook, in exchange of an honest review.