4 out of 4 stars
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In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 23, Jesus of Nazareth hangs on a cross alongside two men who have been convicted of criminal acts. While one of them condescendingly spits out offensive words, the other man asks for mercy. How did they come to be a part of such a significant piece of history? What did these individuals do to earn side by side invitations to one of the most talked about moments in scripture? In his book, Demons and Thieves, Brae Wyckoff offers readers a believable account of what could have landed these two crooks next to the Messiah.
The story opens with the birth of Dismas. His dad Nestor involves himself in a situation that changes their lives for twenty years. The repercussions of his actions haunt both father and son as each one struggles to find the meaning of life. Meanwhile, Roman rulers are terrorizing Jewish people, who try to skirt legal trouble to practice their sacred laws in peace. It is a pressure cooker of an atmosphere when Jesus arrives on the scene. He challenges not only the government regulations but his Jewish heritage when his teachings are deemed too radical. Even though he gains some followers, there is trouble brewing beneath the surface from both parties who want him eradicated.
Dismas and his sibling, Gestas, are Greek men caught in the middle of the culture clashes. Anger and resentment fuel their actions as they try to manipulate the system to their advantage. However, no one can be trusted entirely in this environment of secrets and lies as the two warring groups work to out-manipulate one another.
Demons come into play through the mythology portion of the novel. A portal is opened, and evil permeates people and territories. Ironically, some enjoyed engaging with the dark side, and not everyone was thrilled with having these cast out. It meant power being stripped away, and that put everyone on a level playing field. This was just another strike against the Son of God who went about healing the sick, raising the dead, and making demons flee. The enemies against the Savior gather momentum quite quickly.
Nestor, the father of Dismas, and his friend, Philos feel the effects of what it is like to be touched by the healing power of God. They want to share the good news, but they soon find they have to walk a tightrope of faith being careful about what they say and to whom.
This book is highly organized into sixty chapters and divided into five parts. While the length may make some readers take a step back, the reading is quick as the plot moves forward. I was surprised at how fast I could read a section, pick up more information and be satisfied until I had more time to spend on it. Also, I loved the fact that the author subtitled each chapter to identify the narrator. If the focus was on Dismas, his name was listed. If it was Nestor, this was written so that there was no confusion about which character was being highlighted. By the end of the book, the point of view alternated from father to son which I found to be quite engaging and added to the speed by which I was flipping pages.
There wasn't anything I didn't like about this novel. While I generally don't prefer a lot of bloody scenes, there are plenty. But, this is because a race of people are being beaten down and brutally murdered by a greed driven government. The author wasn't out of line with the way he depicted it, but for those who don't enjoy this type of writing, you may want to steer clear of this one because of violence.
I am awarding this 4 out of 4 stars. I only spotted a few minor errors in the book, so I am giving this the highest score that it deserves. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes to read historical fiction that focuses on the Bible. I have to admit that the story made me think about the tumultuous time that Jesus walked the earth, and it isn't that much different than what we are experiencing in our society today. Much like then, people take sides, and territories are fought over, but there is always a still, small voice forging on spreading the message of God's love for humanity. That is what readers will find in this complex and true to life Christian tale.
Demons & Thieves
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