T.L. Hines,
Waking Lazarus
(Bethany House, 2006)

At age 8, Jude Allman was ice-fishing with his gruff but loving father when Jude fell through the ice. He was dead by the time he arrived at the hospital. He woke up in the morgue.

At 16, Jude and his friend were hiking in the woods when a storm came up suddenly; Jude was struck by lightning and was dead on arrival at the hospital. He woke up as they were readying to send him to the morgue.

At 24, Jude worked in South Dakota, but was heading back to Nebraska to celebrate the holidays when he ran into the worst blizzard in a decade, went off the road and froze to death before he was found. He woke up in the hospital.

Notice a pattern? Or two? By the time Jude reaches 32, he has become overwhelmed by being hounded by reporters, evangelists, people asking him to help their dying children, people wanting to contact their late loved ones and people who just want to know about the Other Side. He writes a book full of goodness and light, meant to help him find some peace from those who followed him around seeking answers he didn't have. Jude moves to another state, changes his name to Ron Gress, gets an inconspicuous job as a janitor and spends most of his time locked in his apartment with the windows boarded up. He has become paranoid, and he has tried very hard not only to hide from others, but from his own past. He has actively worked to forget as much as possible.

Meanwhile, children are disappearing in the area near where Jude/Ron lives. Those children don't get found, alive or dead. Jude/Ron had a brief affair with a then-alcoholic young woman, and they now have a 5-year-old son, Nathan. With all of his problems, Jude/Ron isn't the best father, but he is trying. And he worries that his son might be the next to disappear.

T.L. Hines has given us an excellent suspense thriller, with some twists that snuck up on me rather nicely. About 70 percent of the book focuses on Jude and his search for normalcy, in spite of being the Comeback Kid. Can he live a normal life while concealing his identity and hiding from his own past? The other 30 percent focuses on an individual who thinks of himself as two people: the Normal and the Hunter. The Hunter thrives on the chase, the capture and the terror of his Quarry. Even though we know Hines will be making the two storylines converge, and even though it isn't too hard to figure out how they will come together, the details of the how keep the suspense alive. Will Jude save the day? Will he die in the effort? Will he come back again?

This is a well-written thriller with a fast pace, but also a richness in character development that is sometimes missing in thrillers. Jude Allman is a very flawed hero, and might even rival the most flawed fictional hero I know: Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. But Hines' thriller occurs in this world, not a fantasy world, and it moves along much faster than Donaldson's magnificent but daunting six-book set. And Hines creates terror without needing a lot of gore or blatantly supernatural phenomena.

There are religious overtones to the story, but not more so than in many of Stephen King's stories, like Desperation, The Stand or The Green Mile. Actually, the religious component might be less important than in King's books.

I highly recommend Waking Lazarus to anyone who loves a good thriller, and I hope that we see more stories of this quality from Hines in the future.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Chris McCallister

24 May 2008

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