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Deconstruction job

by
04 November 2016

Fiona Hook finds this novel a revelation

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist

Daniel Taylor

Marylebone House £8.99

(978-1-910674-44-4)

Church Times Bookshop £8.10

 

IT IS difficult to understand why everyone isn’t reading this book.

Jon Mote, failed academic, scrapes a living researching, or as he puts it, trying to burrow new tunnels through old hordes of informa­tion. Legionnaire’s disease, tempered glass, bite rates for Chows. Anything that will pay. When the wife of his erstwhile graduate-school mentor, the trendy English professor Richard Pratt, hires him to investigate the professor’s death, he takes the job because he and his developmentally disabled sister, Judy, have to eat.

At first sight, this is a normal whodunnit, and the reader is pulled in by Mote’s voice, a ready flow of one-liners and literary allusion. As Mote talks to people who might have had a motive, the author uses his considerable satirical powers to shine a light on American academia, and how the morally and spiritually bankrupt literary trick of decon­struction destroys the truth by depriving words of their meaning. To start with, it’s funny; then it’s profoundly disquieting.

As Mote investigates, he begins to disintegrate. The voices in his head become louder, the jokes disappear, and, when he uncovers a horrible secret in his mentor’s past, the demons he has buried in his own threaten to overwhelm him.

Dignified and courteous Judy, with her beautifully written slow speech-patterns and her straightforward love for Jesus and her brother, is the author’s foil to the horror and falsehood. It is she who saves Jon in the end.

Taylor showcases many types of Christian, from the hypocrite to churches that welcome all comers for Thanksgiving dinner. Without being heavy, the most important of the book’s many messages is that love will trump falsehood every time. You read its 200 pages slowly, savouring the multitude of ways in which the author makes you think. It deserves a wider audience.

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