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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 751

Thr3e opens with a conversation between seminary student Kevin Parson and Dr. John Francis, his philosophy professor and mentor, on the relationship between human nature and evil, the subject of a paper Kevin is writing. They discuss the possibility that all people have an equivalent, inherent capacity to do evil as part of their human nature. Driving home after leaving the seminary, Kevin receives a cell phone call from a stranger identifying himself as Richard Slater, who claims to know what Kevin is hiding and says it is time to expose him. Slater gives him three minutes to confess his sin to the newspapers before Slater blows up the car. He also leaves Kevin with a riddle.

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Unaware what sin Slater could mean, Kevin abandons the car just in time to escape the explosion. More bomb threats and riddles follow, always escalating in destructiveness, always with time limitations or clues involving the number three. Kevin contacts his closest friend and soul mate, Samantha, whom he has known since childhood, to visit and help him solve the mystery. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assigns agent Jennifer Peters to the case at her earnest request; the case resembles the pattern of a riddling bomber who killed her brother a year before, and she seeks to avenge his death. With the help of Samantha and Jennifer, Kevin seeks to discover Slater’s identity and motive while they seek to solve his riddles and thwart his explosions.

The second riddle and bomb lead Kevin to visit the home in which he was raised by his Aunt Belinda after his parents’ death—the home he left at his earliest opportunity eight years earlier. The involvement of Kevin’s home arouses memories and emotions associated with the highly abnormal, mentally tortuous first twenty-three years of his life. Though Kevin is too conflicted to discuss or dwell on his relationship with Belinda, Jennifer’s investigation eventually reveals that Belinda created an artificial experience of the world by not allowing Kevin interaction with or exposure to anything she disliked or of which she disapproved. She created a fantasy world by physically cutting out what in her view were undesirable sections of newspapers and books, and she sought to limit Kevin’s intellectual development so he would not shame her retarded son, Bob. Kevin was not allowed to interact with other children, and he made friends with Samantha at age eleven only by sneaking out his window at night. One result of this upbringing, Jennifer comes to realize, is that Kevin had no significant exposure to worldly evil until he left home. Another consequence that plagues Kevin increasingly as the emotional tension of Slater’s riddle-bombing games escalates is his hate-love for Belinda. He despises her small-mindedness and the memories of growing up in her house, but the very world she created for him as a...

(The entire section contains 751 words.)

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