Author: Tracy Groot
Genre: Mystery (Amateur Detective)/Christian (Historical)
When Tallis, a Greek philosopher's servant, is sent to a Greek satellite academy in Palestine to see why they were not sending their reports back to Greece, he finds that the academy had disbanded. He begins to question the townspeople as to what happened, but no one will talk to him. Later, he finds that of the ten teachers of the academy, two are dead, one worships at the Temple of Dionysus and one is considered a madman. The rest are missing. Being a scholar himself, Tallis is intrigued by the Cult of Dionysus and decides figure out what happened to the academy. He begins working at an inn. During his stay, he is forced to face long suppressed memories of his childhood, where his mother killed his brother for the Cult of Dionysus. He then learns that the young boy, Zagreus, who lives at the inn, will be murdered by the same cult as Tallis' brother years before, if he cannot save him in time. As these two mysteries interweave, Tallis tries to help the madman, who is actually the brother of Kes, daughter of the owner of the inn. In the end, the only one who can save the madman and the village from evil is Jesus Christ, who comes to the shore and cleanses the Madman's soul. This story was based on the Gerasene demonic mentioned in Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke. SPOILER The young boy, Zagreus, is the Priestess to the Cult of Dionysus and madman's son.
Geographical Setting: Kursi (city on the eastern side of Sea of Galilee)
Time Period: 30 A.D.
Groot's historical and biblical research during this time period is well recorded throughout this book. She uses a slow pace throughout the book in order to explain the historical setting well, but speeds it up during several climatic areas. She also uses modern language, which helps to simplify the story to new readers of this genre. The tone of the story is dark as the reader is shown characters that have been devastated by a lifetime of bad events. In order to solve the mysteries that abound this story, Tallis becomes a strong, smart main character. The author also shows Tallis' sensitive side when he tries to win over Kes, the inn keeper's daughter. While Kes first appears angry and cold, she soon becomes loving and a strength to Tallis. The servant at the inn, Samir, is also an important secondary character. While mostly mute throughout the story, he appears to give guidance to Tallis during difficult times, while pushing the story forward. Groot's writing syle can be confusing at times. This is because she switches third person accounts from each character's perspective, without giving notice. The dialogue is handled in a similar fashion, many times without the use of explanation of who is talking. Once the reader has picked up on this style, it becomes an interesting feature to the story. The Christian theme of Christ defeating evil is secondary to the story, and only appears in the last twenty pages of the book. Madman was the 2007 Christy award winner for historical fiction.
Read-alikes: If readers enjoyed the gripping tension and barren landscapes, they may like Pompeii, by Robert Harris. In this story, Attillius, the newly appointed chief engineer for the aqueduct that supplies water to Naples must try to figure out why the aqueduct is not working before a drought begins. Soon, rumblings from Mt. Vesuvius change everything and he is soon in a fight to save his and his love-interest's life before all is lost from the volcano. Readers that liked the strong central character and theme of God's love, without being overtly preachy may like to read Francine Rivers' book, A Voice in the Wind. This is the first book in the series, Mark of the Lion, which follows a slave girl in 100 A.D. Rome as she tries to keep her faith in God amongst all of the Pagan worshipers in Rome. If readers enjoyed Groot's portrayal of Christ's message of forgiveness and a slower paced historical novel, The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas takes readers to a story that takes place right after the crucifixion of Jesus by a Roman Solider, Marcellus. He wins Christ's robe as a gambling prize and he beings a quest to understand Christianity with faith, romance and spiritual redemption. Just as Groot's story was created from a little known portion of the Bible, so too is Barabbas, by Par Lagerkvist. Readers might also like Barabbas because it is written with multiple points of view and has a dark tone of tragety woven throughout. Barabbas is the murderer and thief that was decided to be spared, while Christ was crucified. He then goes to the crucifixion and spends his entire life on a quest for faith, but only finds death and dispair. Another book that readers may like is Gods and Kings (Chronicles of the Kings #1), by Lynn Austin. Readers may enjoy this book because it has themes of struggling to believe in Christ's love during hardships and good charactherizations of little known people in the Bible. In it, King Hezekiah, heir to the throne of King David, discovers that his father wants to sacrifice him to the pagan gods. When Hezekiah's mother finds out, she does everything in her power to save her son, but learns that only the true God can give them strength to fight against evil.
Red Flags: Descriptions of murder, canbialism and demonic power are throughout this story.