When Ted Dekker's on, you get a gripping yarn that'll keep you up way past your bedtime. But when he's off, you get a painful disaster like _Obsessed_.
In 1973, a young Jewish real estate proto-mogul orphaned early in life stumbles across a mysterious safe in the basement of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor, setting him on a righteous quest. Along the way he battles a sinister Nazi serial killer, unearths his mother's true identity, hangs with a group of clever flower children, pursues the mystical Stones of David (the five stones the shepherd/king used to slay Goliath), and pines for a young woman in a photograph who might be either a Holocaust victim or his future bride.
Not a bad premise for a story, but what Dekker does with the elements goes so far over-the-top it verges on camp. His increasing tendency to draw evil and good in stark black and white makes his recent villains so far-fetched as to be laughable. The villain in _Obsessed_ is not only a Nazi, he's the son of a ruthless concentration camp commandant, AND he's a serial killer, AND a Satan-worshiper. Whew! But that's not enough: Roth Braun also drinks the blood of his Jewish, female victims. It's a wonder he isn't a transvestite, too.
Nevermind that the depiction of 1970s-era Jews in _Obsessed_ is channeled from _Fiddler on the Roof_, or that the Nazi stooges resemble Rainer Wolfcastle of "The Simpsons"--every single character in this book is a stereotype, even the dog. And while all novelists go to the well of suspension of disbelief now and then, Dekker trods that path so many times in _Obsessed_ it becomes an eight lane superhighway. Simply put, the obsession that drives the story wouldn't matter to a young secular Jew bent on making a fortune in the L.A. real estate market. Factor in outlandish characters who simply drop out of the story as it progresses, laughable attempts to retrieve the object of obsession, and the oft-mined villain mistake of pontificating while the hero slips his bonds (which must happen a dozen times in this book), and readers will wonder if they're reading a parody of a Ted Dekker novel.
If it could possibly get worse, Dekker panders to the Christian audience by making the hero's mentor a Messianic Jew. What purpose this serves the story is anyone's guess since it never develops one iota. The only other nod to Christianity comes from the villain, who insists on ridiculing Jesus for no other reason than to establish that, as far as villains go, he's got an extra dollop of villainy. It's as if Dekker doesn't trust his established audience enough to forego overt references to Christianity in what is essentially a story about Jews; he's added those references to mollify the faithful rather than center the book. For a novelist as good as Ted Dekker can be, that's a sin.
Read something else by Dekker--anything. _Obsessed_ should garner only a star-and-a-half, but gets two out of the hope that it was a rush job and doesn't portend bad things for the future of Ted Dekker and those who love to read him.