Review: COMES A HORSEMAN
It's CSI:Christian Book Association. It's an ensemble cast. It's a tense mystery, following a Norse murderer and his pack of hybrid wolfdogs from one beheaded victim to the next. It's a techo-thriller, unveiling machinery and techniques for gathering crime scene evidence and tracking the serial killer who has brought all of our players together for this story.
Robert Liparulo's Comes A Horseman (copyright 2005, WestBow Press) is full of what makes a marketable novel - a very bad situation fills the lives of people going through real enough problems without having to go through this, too. The book opens with Brady Moore spending some time with his young son Zach, both still grieving the death of Brady's wife, Zach's mom. A faith in God is hinted at, but there's nowhere to go with it - perhaps God has better things to do than protect these two, than to preserve the love of their lives. Questions and doubts are already a part of the picture, when another murder, another serial killer's mark, is reported, and Moore must now leave to find the bad guy - packing his suitcase, bringing along his doubts and questions.
His partner is already on the scene. Alicia Wagner gets to wear the "Robocop suit", digitizing the crime scene, playing up feminist tendencies in front of the male-dominated local police. Meanwhile, the murderous hunter with the Norse-like accent and three hybrid killer dogs is leaving this house and migrating to his next victim, an unsuspecting boy - he's feeling mercy towards the child even as he's planning to kill him quickly and painlessly. The story continues cross-country, across the inner emotional ties of the characters, as the reader discovers over the pages what's really important: what is going on here?
Today's thriller isn't as concerned with whodunit as it is with whydunit - we know who the killer is, but what motivates him? Why does he do what he does? How are his victims predestined for gruesome ends, and what drives him into this place of death and brutality? And we're concerned not so much with the clues to the case as we are with the clues into the lives of the protagonists. Why do they do what they do? How will Moore ultimately deal with the death of his wife, and how will he connect with his also-grieving son? How will Wagner and the others fit into this, as friends and as co-workers with unique insights to the machinery of the investigation and unique insights into the life of their friend? Liparulo does a good job with the prose, the mood and the tempo to make us want to find those answers, want to keep reading, want to keep caring.
Comes A Horseman works on the level of a thriller more than as an expose' of the human condition. But there's enough of the humanity of the characters to hold the attention, and the story drives itself. The film rights have already been sold, and I'm looking forward to the movie version and what it might be able to do with the imagery and characterizations. I recommend this book for the coming cold of winter - a cup of coffee, a gentle fire, and a few extra lights on in the house while you read on those chilly November evenings.