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George MacDonald
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The Departed

by Kathryn Mackel

The Departed by Kathryn Mackel


The Departed

  • The Departed by Kathryn Mackel

    Kathryn Mackel's novel The Departed is the best new work I have read since I've been reviewing novels.

    The Departed has a very large cast, but comes down principally to three people: Joshua Lazarus, a struggling magician who has either stumbled onto the greatest scam of all time or a doorway to unimaginable evil; his wife Maggie, a co-dependant survivor of abuse with serious trust issues; and Penn Roper, an ex-government operator who burns with a fire that seems to have been smoldering for a long time and is just fanned by the events of this book.

    There are many more people in this book, which confused me a little at the beginning (but then I'm always a little slow with names). Not to give anything away, but so many of the characters (who I thought were going to be major players in the narrative) are killed off in the early going of the book that I began to wonder if Mackel was going to have anyone left to finish the story with. Not to worry; there's plenty of story for everyone.

    As to story-line, The Departed is about an egocentric but struggling young magician (Lazarus) who hears a woman contemplating suicide on a pier one night. Realizing she is a famous but has-been movie star and guessing (correctly) at the source of her grief, when he sees her at his performance the next night he pretends to channel her ex-lover. The woman is moved by his performance and uses the remains of her clout in the entertainment industry to propel Joshua Lazarus to the forefront of the national stage as someone who can talk to the dead (she believes in him). While the core of his presentation is still sleight-of-hand, Joshua begins to believe he really does have a connection to "the other side".

    As Joshua ascends the heights of fame, his wife—whose whole life has been centered on him—finds herself pushed out of the spotlight. When she befriends some Christians and begins to share their faith, she struggles to reconcile Christianity with her husband's profit from the occult. Meanwhile, a man who was trained by the government in the arts of covert ops suffers a horrible personal tragedy which he believes to be the fault of Joshua Lazarus. Using all his skills and resources, Penn Roper determines to make Joshua Lazarus suffer as much as possible.

    The Departed is a book that treads where few Christian novels go. Most of the characters, especially in the early going, aren't just unsaved, they're warped—evil, even. (To the world, though, most of them will just seem like good folks with strange interests.) Mackel, through the course of the book, makes it clear what the Biblical point of view regarding these attitudes and pursuits is with great skill (i.e. without the heavy-handed moralizing it would have been so easy to inject). It becomes very clear who the "bad guys" are and where the only real source of good comes from.

    The writing is excellent. Mackel keeps the story moving at a furious pace without resorting to the cheap literary trick of incomplete sentences which masquerades as taut pacing in so many current novels (especially Christian novels). Mackel reminds the reader that writing well need not mean writing fast.




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Other Recommendations from Best Christian Fiction

  • First Time: The Legend of Garison Fitch - by Samuel White

  • In His Steps - by Charles M Sheldon


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