Ciccolo’s debut combines both strong supernatural elements and political power in a typical thriller centering on exorcism. Early, Detective Luby discovers a skinned body in a jail, which, along with two suicides, is connected directly to the prestigious Charleroi family. Investigations point to Sam Charleroi, who has been mysteriously ill and manifesting what appear to be dark forces in his family’s home. Despite his strong initial skepticism about the need for an exorcism, especially since it seems that the Catholic Church’s Cardinal Lowell is attempting to silence (or possibly kill) Sam in order to conceal a sex abuse scandal, professor/priest Malveaux discovers evidence of a similar demonic power in a file created by demonology researcher Seamus Caine, as well as even more evidence surrounding the mysterious Harold Gamble. Unfortunately, the novel isn’t a page-turner. Much of the investigation is moot thanks to early indications that the force involved is demonic, and early mentions of the potential demon’s name empty out the later search. Standard crime-scene methods like fingerprinting reveal details easily instead of allowing readers to do the work of discovering them. Natural dialogue keeps many of the characters in order, yet the narrative tends to summarize how the characters feel rather than infusing their emotions and reactions into the story: “He understood forgiveness very well as far as he was concerned. It was not easy to forgive, but it certainly wasn’t something that was given automatically.” Still, genuinely freaky events, such as Sam’s conversations with invisible beings, give this novel some scary merit. It’s too bad an occasional gag compromises these moments, shattering the uncanny with silliness.
Despite lackluster plot development, this thriller’s creepy moments provide some nightmare fodder.