Tag Archives: Jon Mote

‘Woe To the Scribes and Pharisees,’ by Daniel Taylor

And who or what is God anyway? A word they used to always capitalize but now is frequently printed in lower-case—god—as in, a god among many gods, none of them real. Personally, I’m sticking with the capital even when not believing there is such a being, because I want my nonbelief to be about something important. Who wants to disbelieve in a lower-case god?

Daniel Taylor is a Christian writer with whom I have theological differences. But I enjoy his novels. Which wouldn’t bother me if I weren’t an ideologue. If I knew the religious beliefs of most of my favorite fiction writers, I’m sure they’d give me a sudden appreciation for Taylor as a brother. It’s only among the brethren that I get all religiously partisan.

Anyway, Taylor’s Jon Mote series is an enjoyable sequence of mystery novels (this is the third) about a troubled and God-haunted man who was once possessed by demons and has been exorcised, but who still declares himself a skeptic. As Woe To the Scribes and Pharisees begins, he seems to be getting his life together. His wife Zee has returned to him, and he has a responsible editing job with a Minneapolis publishing house that specializes in New Age books. They have recently decided to tap into the huge Bible market, by publishing one of their own. This will be a Bible for the new millennium, a Bible acceptable to everyone. However, discovering the expenses involved in producing their own translation, they decide to license one that already exists. They go to Dr. Jerry DeAngelo, a retired TV preacher who appears to be sort of a cross between Pat Robertson and Billy Graham. Dr. DeAngelo published a paraphrase of his own some years back, and now he’s agreed to license it to Jon Mote’s company, with certain stipulations, including his own participation on the revision committee. Which will consist of Christians spanning the continuum from far left universalist to far right fundamentalist.

It goes even worse than you might expect.

They aren’t very far into their editorial meetings before one of their number, a liberal theologian, is found dead in a rest room, the apparent victim of a heart attack. Only Jon notices a cryptic message written in soap on the mirror, which makes him suspicious, though he can’t figure out its significance.

Then a celebrity pastor (sort of a Joel Osteen stand-in) who had agreed to endorse the translation (before it’s finished, of course) dies in what looks like an accident.

And that’s not the last of the deaths. Eventually, while snowed in in a northern Minnesota lodge, they will all realize that these deaths have been murders, and that the murderer is among them.

Author Taylor does an excellent job portraying the debates between liberals and conservatives, and he does it so well that I suspect every reader will think the author secretly agrees with him. The book as a whole consists largely of a series of Socratic dialogues, in which principles of biblical interpretation are hashed out pretty thoroughly and fairly.

What I fear is that Woe To the Scribes and Pharisees is too talky for the average reader, especially for non-Christians. I wish non-Christians would read this book, but I’m not sure they’ll tolerate all the God talk.

Christians, I think though, will take to it pretty well. I know I did.

As always, the real hero of the story is Jon’s “developmentally disabled” sister, Judy, who cuts to the core of matters through her pure and simple love of Jesus, unencumbered by doubts or sophistication.

I highly recommend Woe To the Scribes and Pharisees. Cautions for challenging and mature themes, and some rough language.

‘Do We Not Bleed?’ by Daniel Taylor

Do We Not Bleed?

The joke is that I was the one who was retarded. I’m the one lagging behind. I have a moderately higher IQ than Judy. I don’t have any extra chromosomes. I can tell time. But she knows how to live and I don’t. She knows how to treat people and I don’t. She knows how to be happy and I don’t. She knows how to give and receive love and I sure don’t.

Daniel Taylor’s second Jon Mote mystery continues a superior, unconventional Christian mystery series. In the first installment, Death Comes For the Deconstructionist, Jon, a former English scholar who heard self-destructive voices in his head, solved the murder of his former academic mentor. He also experienced an exorcism – though he probably wouldn’t call it that. It’s true that the voices have stopped and show no signs of returning, but he knows Scripture well enough (as a lapsed Baptist) to know the story of the swept and garnished room.

As Do We Not Bleed? opens, Jon’s mentally retarded sister Judy, who lived with him in the last story, has returned (by her own choice) to New Directions, a group home in Wayzata, Minnesota. Having no better prospects, Jon has taken a job as a counselor there, permitting him to spend time with her. He finds that life in a care facility for Specials (the current favored euphemism for the retarded) has some similarities to life in the English Department. Everyone is obsessed with politically correct language, as if you can change reality by making up new names. But Jon enjoys working with his group, who are colorful individuals and see the world in interesting ways.

Then one day one of the residents, the brain-damaged daughter of a very rich man, disappears. Soon her body is found in a nearby wetland. Neighbors are inclined to blame the group home residents. Tragically, after the woman’s body is found, evidence is discovered pointing to J.P., a member of Jon’s group. Jon finds it impossible to believe that gentle J.P. could have done something like that, but it takes a troubling conversation with an old nun and the innocent (and legally useless) testimony of another resident to persuade Jon to take the risk of confronting the true murderer. Continue reading ‘Do We Not Bleed?’ by Daniel Taylor