Playing Saint, by Zachary Bartels

book coverPublisher’s Summary:

Yesterday, Parker Saint’s only concern was his swiftly rising star power.

Today, he’s just trying to stay alive.

Parker Saint is living the dream. A cushy job at a thriving megachurch has him on the verge of becoming a bestselling author and broadcast celebrity—until life takes an abrupt turn that lands him on the wrong side of the law. To avoid a public scandal, he agrees to consult with the police on a series of brutal murders linked by strange religious symbols scrawled on each victim.

Parker tries to play the expert, but he is clearly in over his head. Drawn ever deeper into a web of intrigue involving a demanding detective, a trio of secretive Vatican operatives, and a centuries-old conspiracy to conceal a mysterious relic, he realizes for the first time that the battle between good and evil is all too real—and that the killer is coming back . . . this time for him.

My Take:

Playing Saint starts with a weird but interesting prologue set 13 years before the present day. A young man named Danny is in a church building waiting “for his exorcism.” It appears to be a regular occurrence, and the reader isn’t quite sure if Danny is for real or just a con man. The novel then segues into a murder mystery with two cops investigating what looks to be a ritualized killing.

Despite being the main character, Parker Saint is the fourth personality we meet and he’s not exactly a modest man of the cloth. He comes across as a prosperity gospel teaching self-help guru. I won’t mention any names here, but I’m sure you can come up with one or two preachers that fit the description. He’s not a likeable character. Then again, neither is the cop with whom he’s paired. I actually found it difficult to like any character in Playing Saint, with perhaps the exception of Saint’s long-suffering assistant, Paige. A funny thing happens throughout the course of the novel, however. Saint starts to rethink some of his life choices. The church his grandfather started is a shadow of its former self, forever changed when Parker left to start his Abundance Now Ministries. But is he responsible for it losing the building it called home for so long? What about his mentors, those he lets influence him? Are they the right people to do that? Is he really doing God’s will?

I admit that sometimes I found this book hard going at times. Parker drifts along, mostly at the mercy of others. He doesn’t seem to know much, but what he’s being told is starting to make him think. The Vatican operatives would probably be more at home in either a Dan Brown or a science fiction novel. But I’m glad I stuck it out because, in hindsight, I can see that the drifting is central to the meaning. (I’m still undecided about those operatives.) The horrifying truth comes out of nowhere, as Parker realizes the evil was there all along. He just didn’t recognize it. The last portion, after this revelation, contains action that left my heart thumping long after I put down this book.

Playing Saint is about how we fail to recognize evil in all its forms. It’s about how a slippery slope can get so steep that there is no way out. It can be interpreted as a response to the positivity message we see on our TV screens, one which masquerades itself as Christianity. Fans of this style of teaching may take offence at the portrayal of their favorite ministries, but perhaps that’s a good thing. If a teacher doesn’t speak about sin and salvation through the Gospel on a regular basis during his message, is he or she representing Jesus? Or are they leading you down that slope to something, or someone, else?

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for my complimentary copy of Playing Saint, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

Do you plan to read Playing Saint? Let me know your thoughts.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 07 October 2014

Page Count: 344

Read more on:   Zachary Bartels’ Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Christianbook.com

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One thought on “Playing Saint, by Zachary Bartels

  1. Pingback: The Last Con, by Zachary Bartels | Proverbial Reads

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