Having reviewed numerous crime thrillers, I'd thought that their authors covered all the bases. The homicide detectives and private eye protagonists were similar in their love for their families and skilled sleuths. Such differences as they had were in their personal habits and locations where they lived and worked. Priests and rabbis were among the characters to indicate their beliefs.
The Abbey by Chris Culver, 391 pp, 2012 Sphere paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 350 baht
To my surprise, American scribe Chris Culver has come up with a literary creation unlike yet like the others. Ash Rashid is a Muslim lawman, Egyptian ancestry, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His wife Hannah and three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Megan are also followers of the Prophet.
They pray five times a day and bury their dead facing Mecca. Ash isn't as devout as his family, drinking in bars and eating bacon in restaurants. Hannah is a paediatric nurse. The predominantly American Christian community tolerates the Muslim citizens among them, yet doesn't fully accept them.
In his mid-30s, homicide detective sergeant Ash sickened of the corpses he kept seeing and reporting their deaths to their nearest and dearest. Offering his resignation, he moved to the Prosecutor's Office and entered law school. In The Abbey he learns that his niece died on a wealthy family's property.
Teenagers die in big cities daily, OD-ing the most common cause. The Police Department closes the case as such, but Ash doesn't buy it. Rachel was a good Muslim girl and also a virgin at 17. Conducting his own investigation, he learns otherwise. In fact she was into everything, including vampirism.
I wish Culver hadn't chosen to go the way of Anne Rice. The original Muslim ex-detective deserves better than to meander through hundreds of pages of fanged personae and blood drinking. To his credit the author resists the temptation to include Muslim terrorists. But he throws in a Russian gang lord.
The villain is the proprietor of the vampire club of the title. The plot changes direction when she, Karen Rea, Chinese, kidnaps Hannah and Megan and threatens to kill them unless Ash goes on a mission for her. But with the help of his former police partner and a hammer-fisted cop he turns the tables on her.
If Chris Culver is able to pen better stories, Ash Rashid may well capture readers' imaginations. Tidbits from the Koran are interesting. There's no attempt to proselytise. The wonder is that no other writer thought of it. But sure as shootin', others will follow suit.
The Colour Of Death by Michael Cordy, 460 pp, 2012 Corgi paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 350 baht
One of the failings this reviewer admits to is the inability to suspend disbelief, which is why I'm a free-thinker. Not that I side with science over religion. Both have sets of belief my mind rejects. Copernicus and his fellows can't explain where the dust came from that big-banged into the cosmos.
Ghosts and goblins, angels and demons, soothsayers and psychics are fanciful and fictitious. As are heaven and hell, reincarnation and souls, haunted houses and zombies, witches and gods mating with humans. While aware that more than a few people believe in at least one of them, I reiterate that I'm not one of them.
A heathen I may be, but there is something I was brought up to believe in: The Golden Rule. No holy book tells us anything that tops it. Which makes me a civilised heathen in the best sense of the term. I trust that this explains my approach to penning critiques of books in those categories.
Such as The Colour Of Death by British author Michael Cordy. In it, he focuses on a California cult near Sacramento which traces its origin back to fallen angels days of yore. What if modern-day believers made their progeny so pure that they would be accepted back in heaven?
According to the cult leader Regan Delaney _ The Seer _ this could be done by breeding people like horses. He has built a tower in which this takes place. Higher levels of beings have enhanced senses, able to tell what happened somewhere by feeling the walls. They can hear the agonised souls of The Seer's victims.
Forensic psychiatrist Nathan Fox is taken on as a consultant by the Portland Police Department on tough cases, like the finding of four bodies. What was the motivation? Then there's the woman with amnesia. Both mysteries leading to the cult and becoming their prisoner. To his horror, he's to be a human sacrifice.
Her memory restored, Sorcha is The Seer's daughter, who ran away when he ordered her half-brother to rape her. Now daddy intends to do it in the name of The Great Work. Fox has fallen in love with her, can he prevent this act of incest? Bodies pile up.
To be sure The Colour Of Death is a thriller. Still. I perused it thinking what do these characters possibly hope to achieve? The Seer spouts chapters of double-talk and Dr Fox agrees, until the girl solves the mystery of his life. All I can say is that if you believe in the supernatural, this book is for you.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer