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The Departed    by Kathryn Mackel order for
by Kathryn Mackel
Order:  USA  Can
WestBow, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Joshua Lazarus spent many years working as a poor excuse for a magician. Just as he's about ready to throw in the towel on his life, an overheard conversation transforms him into a nationally-known medium. His live television show, coupled with his magnetic personality and fabulous looks, catapults him to success. Joshua's wife, Maggie, takes a back seat so that Joshua can appear unattached to his mostly female fans. Although his communication with the dead is a well-researched and planned hoax, the audience's conviction that Joshua can talk to their deceased loved ones provides them with comfort.

Maggie begins to volunteer at Safe House, a Christian gathering place for young people. Although she doesn't believe in God, Maggie doesn't really have a place to fit in with Joshua's entourage, so Safe House seems as good a place as any to hang out. As God draws Maggie closer, Joshua is being pulled away by forces he doesn't know or understand. He begins to have visions of ghosts crying out to him for help. Is there hope for Maggie and Joshua to survive the occult influence in their lives?

This novel is labeled a Christian Chiller, which aptly describes its tone. It's not for readers who enjoy pleasant stories where everything works out neatly in the end. But for Christian readers curious about the occult and its effect on the living, this story delivers an eerie journey. The relationship between Maggie and Joshua is fascinating, because it shows how a marriage can survive when one person turns to God and the other is leading a life contrary to those beliefs. Maggie never stops praying for Joshua, never wavers from her own convictions, but still manages to honor her marriage.

The Departed explores many of the arguments about the occult and gently explains the Bible's stance on different issues, such as talking to the dead. The characters are detailed and extremely realistic, and the plot is one of the most original I have read in Christian fiction. Kathryn Mackel's first book, The Surrogate, is equally creepy and engrossing; she is an author to watch. Her next, Outriders, delves into the fantasy genre.

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