An academic and chairman of the English Department at a St. Paul, Minn., university, Dr. Pratt seemed to have everything going for him – he had just received a prestigious award at which he was honored at a dinner; he has remade the English Department to mirror his post-modern, deconstructionist teachings; he has a lovely wife.
He also has a stab wound, and fatal injuries from falling from the 13th floor of the hotel room he was in following his dinner. The police see suicide. His wife is not so sure. She asks an old student, Jon Mote, who happened to attend the dinner to hear his old (and somewhat idolized) professor speak, to investigate.
Jon is a researcher, still trying to escape his Christian upbringing. He’s caring for Judy, his special needs sister. He’s hearing voices, voices growing louder, and he’s trying to hold a rapidly fracturing life together. The voice may not let him.
He believed what Dr. Pratt taught; it allowed him (he thought) to help escape an abusive upbringing by an aunt and uncle after his parents died in a car crash. But as he unravels the story of Dr. Pratt, he begins to unravel his own life. And as good investigations go, he discovers no end of people who might have wanted Dr. Pratt dead, including his wife.
Daniel Taylor’s Death Comes for the Deconstructionist is a murder mystery, yes. But it’s much more. It’s a journey through how literature (and related fields) is taught in today’s universities. It’s about ferocious and vicious university politics. It’s about a literary theory that is the paradigm in American academia, and the destructive seeds it sows. And it is about a man in middle age, struggling to discover who and what he is.
As strange as literary theories like deconstruction are, they can have consequences far outside the walls of the university. What Taylor does is make the almost inexplicable understandable, and he does in a context of power, deceit, and politics.
Taylor is the author of The Skeptical Believer, Tell Me a Story, Creating a Spiritual Legacy, The Myth of Certainty and several other books. He’s contributed to Bible translations and is co-founder of The Legacy Center, created to help families and individuals find their stories, values and meaning. He’s also a contributing editor for Christianity Today’s Books and Culture Magazine.
To read Death Comes for the Deconstructionist is to read more than a good mystery story. Reading it is also reading what resonates for millions of people who cycled through the American university system in the last 30 years. And reading it ultimately about learning that values are important, and truth does indeed exist.
Photograph by Anna Langova via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.