What if they gave an apocalypse and everybody came?
Steele’s sequel to The Watchers (2012), the middle volume in his Angelus Trilogy, is rather less neatly constructed than its predecessor. It opens with a tossed-off episode within the walls of Montségur fortress, HQ of the Cathar uprising, the haunt of armor-clad fellows who talk less like John Cleese than Humphrey Bogart: “Can’t blame them. The King offered safe passage to all who promise to become good little Frenchmen.” The Cathars figure in the tale all the same for some neat little reliquary gadgetry that falls into the way of supercop Jay Harper. Readers of the inaugural volume will remember that Jay and high-ticket fille de joie Katherine Taylor only recently whispered sweet nothings to each other within earshot of Lausanne Cathedral while attempting to keep assorted demons and their earthly minions at bay. Katherine’s now across the pond back home, but Jay’s not far from her mind, especially since they’re both under the aegis of the elite Swiss Guard, whose boss is given to growling at Jay such tendernesses as, “If you’d prefer me to remind you that you are not a creature of free will, then I’ll be more than happy to do so.” It’s predestination, then, it seems, that sends a bateau full of bad guys down the Seine into the middle of Paris with a nuclear device and a threat to turn the City of Lights into a bonfire—an eventuality that, naturally, only Jay has the wherewithal to deal with. Does he succeed? Only the sewer rats beneath the city streets can say—and, oh, yes, a weird wraithlike chap named Astruc, and his boon companion, and all those Swiss Guards, and the terrorists, and Katherine, and....
If you read only one supernatural thriller with Albigensian overtones this year, this ought to be it.