Lynch’s latest thriller (The 2020 Players, 2011, etc.) follows a series of people in the aftermath of two apparently isolated shootings.
In Tampa, Fla., a crazed man goes on a killing spree at a university campus. That same day, a doctor overseeing a new abortion clinic is murdered in a parking lot. As detectives and a reporter search for a connection between the two events, different people slowly come into the frame, including “Patch” Munson, an Alabama farmer who confesses to killing the doctor. Some of the story’s players even come together to find a missing woman during a hurricane. In this complex novel, religion is more than just a theme; it serves as a catalyst, connecting and repelling characters. For instance, Father Hanlon’s leaving the priesthood scares Patch into believing his confession will be revealed, which leads to Patch kidnapping Hanlon’s lover, Carol. It’s not just Christianity that seeps into the story: A blind scientist is an atheist, and Julianne, a computer saleswoman, considers herself to be a “seeker,” a spiritualist who follows no organized religion. Lynch doesn’t tip his hand by siding with any creed; instead, he criticizes and praises each one, frequently through debates between Julianne and “Hawk” Richter, the atheist. On the other hand, phonetic renderings of a Southern drawl from the likes of Patch and Rev. Billy Brand can be excessive and distracting, with cryptic words such as “decahded” (decided) and “reignahte” (reignite). The narrative also tends to be a bit wordy, typically in the form of superfluous adverbs—a professor can “visually see” the shooter, a touch is “paradoxically both soft and firm,” and a blind man “blindly” reaches. But Lynch also includes peculiar dualities for readers to ponder: a priest learns he has a son; a sermon inspires a shooting; and the death of the campus shooter isn’t considered murder, but killing a man who condones abortions is. Near the book’s end, as detectives, Hanlon and others desperately search for Carol, the hurricane casts a dark shadow that only intensifies the hunt.
A densely packed story with plenty to savor for readers of any faith or none at all.