In Alexander’s debut religious thriller, a detective investigating a string of suicides finds himself in the middle of an impending war between good and evil.
Forensics investigator Nick McCallister and his wife, Jade, have struggled since they found their son, Justin, dead from suicide. Nick’s city is plagued by numerous suicides of late, and the detective tracks down a mysterious man who’s shown up at his house and at crime scenes. The man, Nathan, says he works for Satan, recruiting lost souls for an army to rise from hell and reclaim Earth. Nick seems to have discovered a religious link—biblical text written on a wall in blood—to the death of a civil rights activist, “Old Ben” Mahoney, who was outspoken against police corruption. His possible murder has incited riots and prompted Internal Affairs to send agent Tabitha Watts to look into the chance that a cop was the killer. Nick works with Tabitha in searching for the murderer, learning along the way why Nathan is intent on the detective joining the side of Satan. The author’s profound narrative provides a drastically different take on stories from the Bible: The truth, at least according to Nathan, involves an uncaring God, aggressive tactics employed by Christ’s followers, and hell as almost a refuge for Satan and his servants. But Alexander isn’t concealing a religious stance or critical view of religion; Nick spends much of his time deciding whether or not to trust Nathan, who also relays alternative history for such events as World War II. Nick is a worthy protagonist; for instance, he’s befriended convenience-store clerk Glenn, an autistic, out of genuine concern rather than pity. He’s aided by Alexander’s descriptive prose, particularly sequences adorned in clipped sentences, such as Nick’s recalling his meeting with Nathan, equated with a DVD player’s playback and coupled with images of Justin. The murder investigation is surprisingly effective and even includes a shootout when strangers, presumably rioters, attack Nick and Tabitha at Old Ben’s home. It’s hampered a bit by clichés, though: Nick’s friend/mentor John is a cop near retirement, which is almost an omen that he’ll get killed; and Tabitha’s good looks lead to others suggesting (or accusing Nick of)infidelity between the two partners. But the story’s heavy religious tones, which completely take over the book’s final act, are unadulterated by convention, all the way to the resounding, open ending.
An innovative, impassioned novel that’s sure to elicit a response.