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Infernal: A Repairman Jack Novel by F. Paul Wilson
Review by Drew Bittner
Gauntlet Press Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 1887368787
Date: 30 April, 2005 List Price $55.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

As Jack looks forward to a Christmas visit from his father, his pregnant girlfriend Gia and her daughter Vicky are eager to meet Jack's dad for the first time. Now that Jack's dad has some idea of what Jack does--solving the problems of those in need in nastily inventive ways--and even backed up his son in a previous adventure, the distance between them is starting to shrink. Jack, unexpectedly, can't wait to see his dad again.

SPOILER WARNING
Tragedy strikes when a terrorist incident erupts at the airport. Gunmen identifying themselves as the Wrath of Allah, mow down dozens of bystanders in a hail of bullets... including Jack's dad. Jack, busy parking the car, never had a chance to intervene.

But that won't stop him for long.
END SPOILER

Unfortunately, the situation means that Jack must contact his older brother Tom, a judge in Philadelphia. Tom is, in many ways, the opposite of Jack: living a highly public life, married (unhappily), and deeply corrupt. In fact, he's in so deep that jail time hangs over his head. Unless he can get his little brother to help him out.

Tom has a stash of cash in Bermuda, but needs Jack's help to retrieve it. Since Jack has no official existence, the prospect of leaving the country is terrifying-- but he plunges ahead for the sake of brotherhood, even though he and Tom never liked each other. It doesn't help that Tom is smitten with Gia and tries in small ways to drive a wedge between her and Jack.

Meanwhile, small time conman Joey Castles (who lost a brother in the same airport massacre) is trying to run down the killers, just as Jack's best friend Abe Grossman tries to track down the uncommon weapons used by the terrorists.

Jack and Tom head to Bermuda, but events go wrong and Tom must go to his fall-back plan: attempt the recovery of an artifact believed lost off the coast of Bermuda hundreds of years ago-- an artifact the Vatican apparently meant to have vanish for all time. It is known as the Lilitongue of Gefreda and its power supposedly will remove the user from the reach of his enemies. Tom has no idea how to invoke it, but once it is secured, he pushes Jack into keeping it in his place "temporarily."

Of course, Tom never suspected that Vicky might find the object... or discover a way to trigger its horrifying powers, and the resulting countdown to her inevitable disappearance. Unless Jack can figure this one out, his almost-daughter will vanish-- and it's all his hated brother's fault.

Wilson's ninth Repairman Jack outing has the same ballistic intensity as his other entries, though this one certainly ratchets up the personal side. Few of the stories have struck so close to home; Wilson doesn't shy away from the problems caused by a dysfunctional sibling relationship, and doesn't try to make Tom likable-- he's a deeply flawed man looking for an easy way out of his problems, who only gradually realizes that his little brother is a far better man than he'll ever be. It's a subtle but powerful emotional arc for the character and, in a series largely about supernatural danger, unlike anything Wilson has offered in a Repairman Jack novel to date. (Fans may point to Hosts as a counter-example but I maintain that this is new territory indeed.)

Also unlike other previous works is something that might have been unthinkable before 9/11, with the Wrath of Allah wreaking grievous harm early on. The spectre of terrorism looms large over the United States now no less than four years ago, and Wilson brings it home to his hero in a heartrending bodyslam. Jack's ability to get some measure of vengeance against these less-than-supernatural foes is perhaps a vicarious thrill for those readers seeking revenge for the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As for the Lilitongue itself, it represents a peek into a shadowy pre-history that Wilson has suggested but rarely shown in previous stories. It will be interesting to see what other elements of this pre-history crawl from the darkness as the stories approach their culmination.

Highly recommended.

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