by F. Paul Wilson
“He flashed his beam at the figure blacking his path. He saw the waxy face, the cape, the clothes, the lank hair, the twin pools of madness where the eyes should be. And he knew. Here was the master of the house.”
Set in Romania around World War II, this story takes place in a stone keep, traditionally the final stronghold within a castle but in this case its own building. The keep is located in out-of-the-way rural countryside but is considered of strategic importance to the German blitz. An interesting dynamic is provided by way of contrast between the German army and SS soldiers of the Nazi party on its meteoric rise to power, as armies of men from both categories are stationed at the keep but with no love lost between the two.
In exploring the keep one of the soldiers in the German army breaks into a walled-off, hidden cell, and a vampiric entity is released from his prison and goes about dispatching the occupiers at a rate of one corpse per day. The leader of the army, Woermann, and that of the SS, Kaempffer, are enemies of old but must work with each other to try and stop the killings. They conscript an elderly and crippled Jewish scholar along with his daughter to help them survive. The dark spirit gains power and lines are blurred between good and evil as the killings are (mostly) limited to the fighters helping to bring the world under Hitler’s heel while the characters race to uncover the truth.
Dr. F. Paul Wilson does a mysteriously effective job of inducing fear while keeping his monster hidden in the first sections of the book. Natural conflict abounds between the leader of the ruthless Nazis, the more sympathetic leader of the German army, and the Jewish scholars held against their wills.
Fast, interesting, and mixing in a bit of history with horror this first book in the Adversary Cycle comes highly recommended.
“How can you judge him, Magda? One should be judged by one’s peers. Who is Molasar’s peer?”