What an unexpected and delightful surprise this book turned out to be! This is the perfect example of why I'm glad I accept review copies, yes, even of books I'm not sure I would buy for myself. When I saw the information about this book, I thought it looked like a run of the mill thriller, but because I had never read the author before I decided to take the plunge.
According to Their Deeds opens at an auction house where rare book shopowner Charles Beale is trying to buy back some books from the estate of a recently deceased client. The auction is somewhat unusual in that many of the items are going for above value. Charles succeeds in getting the books, but when he inspects their condition, he discovers one has been mutilated. Inside the book are hidden many documents containing people's secrets. Unsure of what to do, Charles sets out on a quest to learn why these documents were in the book.
This is not a typical thriller, it's a bit more like a cozy mystery in pacing, complete with rich secondary characters and storylines. The bulk of the story is told through dialogue which I found to be absolutely refreshing, and the dialogue is often punny...but the reason I forgive this is because the characters were so charming and the puns were all about...books. In fact, I wouldn't hesitate at all to call this book a love letter to books. Any fan of the classics or rare books should enjoy this book for that aspect alone.
But more than that, According to Their Deeds examines human nature and explores philosophy. The question at the heart of the book is what should be valued more? Justice or Mercy? Between each chapter is a remembered philosophical conversation that took place between Charles and his deceased client. And Charles wrestles with this decision throughout the pages. He is a completely loveable character, tender hearted, devoted to his wife, and passionate about books. He carries a weight of guilt with him, and tries to help people and do things for them they don't deserve.
I just really really loved this book. When I finished, I went back to read the dedication. Paul Robertson dedicated this book to his dad. His first memory of his dad is of him reading. What a beautiful tribute.
Here are some of my favorite quotes about books and reading from the book:
"What do you read in these books?"
"Everything. Everything that there is. And there is always something new."
"In these books that are old?"
"Yes, especially. It is like being hungry and these are food. I am hungry to read these. And it is also like they are friends and I want to be with them and talk to them."
"That is what the people say about drugs."
"It is a little like that. But these aren't bad for you. And they're legal."
And when discussing A Separate Peace:
"Well then yes, I knew that if I picked that book and English major would realize what I was saying. So let me know if Gene did it on purpose or even what means, and we'll understand ourselves better for it. That's what books are supposed to do."
"Sometimes they explain us too well."
This book is published by Bethany House which is a Christian publisher. But I really don't think of this as typical Christian fiction. I think that this book appeals to everyone. The most overtly Christian thing is the dedication from the author! Please read this book if it sounds good to you, even if you don't typically like Christian fiction!