Review of “The Bride Collector” by Ted Dekker

When I saw the title of this book listed as #43 on NPR’s List of Top Ten Thrillers of All Time (picked by the NPR audience), I was skeptical. I didn’t like Dekker’s Boneman’s Daughters very much. But I was curious too, and since it happened to be in my TBR pile, I read it.

To my pleasant surprise, this really is a good representative of the serial killer genre [I know that “good” and “serial killer genre” will seem oxymoronic to some.] It sticks pretty closely to the standard serial killer template, but Dekker adds two interesting plot threads that elevate the level of the book. One is the theme of mental illness, and how defining someone as “mentally ill” separates and stigmatizes people in a way that may not be justified. The lines of demarcation on the continuum between mental illness and mental health are not always clear, and Dekker takes pains to educate us on this as his characters grapple with the issue.

A second, related plot thread concerns self-worth, and the shame and self-loathing that can paradoxically result from childhood abuse. Dekker’s main characters in this book are all notably physically attractive on the outside, and yet all feel ugly on the inside. They are in a constant battle with themselves to feel worthy. Dekker makes no comment about the societal pressure to be beautiful, and I think that’s not in fact the issue here. Rather, beauty for the characters is defined almost exclusively as inner worthiness. It’s more of a Dorian Gray type beauty. None of them can love others until they learn to forgive and love themselves, but it’s an extremely difficult process.

FBI Special Agent Brad Raines, only 32, but somewhat of a star, is heading a hunt in the Denver field office for a serial killer his team calls The Bride Collector. The killer abducts beautiful women, and kills them by draining the blood from their heels. He then glues each body to the wall and covers the face with a wedding veil.

Not only are the victims beautiful. Brad Raines is a “dead ringer” for a blond-headed George Clooney. Brad’s partner Nikki Holden is gorgeous. It turns out that even the killer (whom we meet very early on) is good-looking.

This killer, named Quinton Gauld, is in the process of selecting and killing seven brides for God, as he informs the FBI in a note he leaves. With the frequency of his killings, Brad knows he is racing against time to find and stop The Bride Collector. Grasping at straws, his team guesses from the killer’s latest note that he is somehow associated with a psychiatric facility called The Center for Wellness and Intelligence. The Director, Allison Johnson, suggests to Brad and Nikki that they question her most brilliant patients about the possibility that the killer was a resident. And so they meet Roudy, Paradise, and Andrea. The threesome’s abilities are a revelation to Brad, who is astounded by what they discover.

Evaluation: This is definitely a page turner, particularly after the FBI connects with the Center for Wellness and Intelligence. Normally I am offended when every character in a book is good looking, but in this case, there is a method to the author’s madness, and it is ironic rather than iconic. If you don’t mind creepy serial killer books, this is a good read!

Rating: 4/5

Published by Center Street, 2010

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18 Responses to Review of “The Bride Collector” by Ted Dekker

  1. Sandy says:

    I didn’t like Boneman’s Daughters either. I thought it was just outlandish (like many serial murder books are) with uninteresting characters. My initial reaction to your review is that a religious zealot who drains the blood from the heels of beautiful women and glues them to a wall is outlandish too. I will trust you that this one rises above….

  2. This sounds like a good choice for RIP. I have been contemplating picking up The Boneman’s Daughter for awhile now, but maybe I’ll just go for this one instead.

  3. Barbara says:

    Psychotic serial killers really creep me out. I don’t know if I could get through this one or not. My skin is crawling just thinking about it.

  4. Trisha says:

    Mental illness, serial killers, and purposefully attractive characters…sounds excellent. I don’t read within the mystery genre very often, but I am rather intrigued by this one.

  5. zibilee says:

    I have read a few books by Dekker and have really enjoyed them, so I will be looking into this one. Thanks for the great review on this book!

  6. Margot says:

    As a matter of fact, I don’t like “creepy serial killer books” but you’ve made me think this is an intelligent, thought-provoking, well-written novel that happens to be about good looking people and serial killers. I’m going to see if the library has it.

  7. bermudaonion says:

    I know what you mean about books when all the characters are gorgeous with super bodies, but I guess it is appropriate at times. This book sounds like one I’d enjoy.

  8. Bookjourney says:

    Love the review and I thought the same thing about Boneman’s Daughter as you did. My review was an “eh”

    This one I did enjoy thought and thought Dekker layed out a good storyline.

    Are you going to be reading his new one (I have to think of that title now…)

    • Sheila,

      I thought this *was* his new one! LOL Guess I’m behind the times. Generally, with the “serial killer” genre, my tendency is not to read them unless they happen to appear in my mailbox.

  9. Julie P. says:

    I still haven’t read a Dekker book despite all of the great/interesting reviews.

  10. Staci says:

    I wasn’t that crazy about The bone Collector but I really like Dekker and will be reading this one at some point! Glad to see that it surprised you!

  11. Jenners says:

    Well this just sounds creep as all heck. And why did I think this guy was some kind of Christian writer??????

  12. softdrink says:

    I tend to pass on the serial killer genre. I’ll leave that little blogging niche to you.

  13. Care says:

    I had to skip your post on your the trilogy of the moment because I have yet to read Hunger Games. Just knowing about the whole ‘team’ thing annoys me and yet I really do want to read these. someday. Is the box set available yet?
    Anyway, having just read a mystery/thriller, I was pulled to this post and just wanted you to know that I will tbr this. Thanks!
    Going on with my combo-comment. I have yet to read any Gladwell but have one of his books somewhere. Another someday. (What a great word.)

  14. Belle says:

    This isn’t a genre I read very often these days (but I used to read these all the time, plus a lot of horror!) – but I might pick this one up based on your review.

    I had to skip your Hunger Games trilogy review, too. I still haven’t gotten around to reading Hunger Games – it’s the whole bleak dystopian world thing … But it’s sitting on the kitchen counter and every time I go by, I think, I really really should just start reading it!

    • Belle says:

      Replying to my own comment LOL I meant to add, thanks for posting the link to that list of top thrillers! I’m going to see what I have in my tbr that’s also on the list, too.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    I haven’t read Dekker yet, but this is the one I have listed to start with when I do. Sounds like my kinda book 🙂

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