Pace’s debut supernatural thriller follows Sheriff Estin Booker as he faces off against the ultimate cosmic force.
In Cumberton, Md., trouble begins soon after a construction crew unearths a small wooden box at the site of a new dormitory at the local Christian college. Trapped within the box is Lucifer’s Light, a tool that can bring about a worldwide descent into Hell. Once released, it begins rapidly claiming souls, driving young and old to commit horrific suicides under the amplified guilt of any past transgressions. Assisted by a lovely but hard-bitten Baltimore detective on forced vacation, Booker investigates to the best of his ability. But with the Light on the loose and demonic enforcers on call, even being armed and faithful may not be enough. While satanic thrillers may have gone out of vogue in the ’70s, Pace makes a good argument for reviving the genre, bringing hard-edged rationality and modern investigative techniques to bear on his supernatural plot. Despite frequent flashbacks that span nearly four centuries, the plot flows with clarity and economy, maintaining a narrative rhythm that provides all the information readers need without rushing the story. Some of the character flourishes aren’t as successful—the enforced using of “shuck” instead of the F-word quickly grates on the reader’s internal ear, defeating its purpose—but overall, the players are more well-rounded than strictly called for by the genre. Characters that might seem to be antagonistic, such as the TV evangelist who founded the college, turn out to have surprising depth and sympathies—making their eventual fates more rewarding or, in some cases, heartbreaking.
Pace crafts compelling characters in service to a thrilling plot, with narrative riches in a vein thought by many to be played out.