by F. Paul Wilson
“No, Carol. He needs to learn all he can about the world. After all, it’s going to be his someday.”
Reprisal continues the story of Father William Ryan, beginning about 20 years after the end of the previous book, Reborn. He has shed his identity, his priesthood, his friends and family, and much of his humanity due to a tragedy that happened many years ago, but after the events of the first book in the trilogy. A groundskeeper at a North Carolina university, he keeps the lowest profile possible, not even owning a telephone for reasons which will be made clear. As he is haunted by this mysterious event we’re led back into his life and those whom he’s eventually come to care about but won’t let himself get close to. Other central characters, including two professors, one male and one female, and an attractive, brilliant male student join a kind of hard-boiled New York detective in rounding out the main cast. One of the professors engages in a perilous relationship with the dangerously powerful student while the other keeps to himself, and the detective relentlessly pursues the vanished Father at the cost of his job. And then there’s the boy…
Reprisal also begins more tangibly tying together the various standalone novels from early in the series. The Keep, The Tomb (or Rakoshi) and The Touch remain excellent standalone novels, but they now start fueling this final trilogy of the cycle.
Mr. Wilson spends nearly the first half of this book in the now, endearing these characters to us, then takes us back to the events that caused all the turmoil affecting the present. This literary device isn’t new, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with another example of it ever being used to better effect in horror. And horror you’re in for. Hints are dropped as to what’s going on as the creep sets in but you’ll only get the barest of ideas.
The second half of the book is quite easily some of the most horrific material you can read outside of torture porn. It might be comical to put cameras on our faces reading this with a slack jaws, but the humor would end there.
There’s one final book in the cycle, though how it can possibly stand up to the dripping, acidic fear of this entry remains to be seen. Here, socks aren’t blown off, they’re shredded to fragmented, bloody chunks and hurled into space.
“I can’t do this to him.”
“Then do it for him.”