Sunday, February 7, 2010

Repairman Jack doesn't do Windows... F. Paul Wilson series

I don't like to get in ruts and I find myself in them all the time.  I love the Tom Kha Gai soup at a local Thai restaurant and I have been known to eat it every day for a week.   Then I have to go have a salad or sandwich just to break the routine.  I love the TV show Criminal Minds and I will tivo 5 or 6 episodes and then over a weekend it will be all I watch.  Then I have pick up a book to get all those serial killers out of my head.
I get into ruts with my reading too.  I will get hooked on a genre or author and for weeks will only read Susan Elizabeth Philips or paranormal romance.  Recently I have found myself in a Young Adult fiction rut so I decided to go a full 180 and not only select a different genre but I selected an author I have never read before, enter, CrissCross by F. Paul Wilson.  I see another rut coming on.

CrissCross is the 8th book in Mr. Wilson's Repairman Jack series.  I picked it up for two reasons.  The first reason was the cover art.  The photographs of  New York landmarks taken in gray tones told me this was going to be a gritty novel.  I knew that this series wasn't going to be anything like the Plum series or Goldy the Caterer series.  This wasn't going to be light or cute.  This was going to be dark.  The second reason reinforced the first.  It was the quote by Dean Koontz on the cover.  "Repairman Jack is one of the most original and intriguing characters to arise out of contemporary fiction in ages."  If this was good enough for Dean then it would be good enough for me.

I was expecting Jack to be an assassin or maybe a P.I. or maybe Robin Hood.  He was all of these and none of these.  He is truly a unique hero.  He fixes things. If you need to be extricated from a horrible situation or you need your life patched up he is the guy to call.  He doesn't advertise in the Yellow Pages nor does he have a Facebook page.  His business is word of mouth referrals only.
Jack is everyman while being no man. His identity is a secret and yet at the same time he has a real relationship with his family. He doesn't lead a dual life....exactly.  His dad knows he doesn't have a 'regular' job and doesn't ask a lot of questions.  His girlfriend, Gia, who knows he "fixes" things understands it's safer to not know the details. He prefers to make all his repair jobs seem natural or accidental.  Killing is always an act of absolute last resort. It takes a lot of work to make a bad situation go away permanently without killing and he has an entire network of helpers who get him what he needs when he needs it.
I entered this series 8 books in and there are huge pieces of this character I am missing.  (Tricky authors make you have to get another book to know what is going on.) When I picked the story up Jack is expecting his first child with his girlfriend.  He's  trying to figure out how he could move back into the mainstream with his true identity so he can be a real dad to his baby.
He has 2 "fixes" in CrissCross.  The first one is a simple missing person case.  Elderly, wealthy mom wants her wayward son found to make sure he is ok.  She believes he has joined a cult.  All Jack has to do is find him and tell him to call home.  The second case is more unsavory.  Sister Mary Margaret is being blackmailed and she wants it to stop.  This case appears to be a pretty simple case since Jack has had dealings with this blackmailer before. For the first 40 pages this book appeared to be exactly what it was, a good suspense novel following an interesting character through his journey of beating the bad guys at their own game.  As always nothing is as it seems.  Page 41 showed up along with a strange piece of skin he keeps hidden in a closet in his apartment.  Down the rabbit hole we go.  Somewhere in an earlier book Jack came into possession of this interesting item and he has even tried to get rid of it but it keeps showing up.  Nothing goes as planned for Jack in this story.  People don't behave as expected.  Jack has to do a lot of improvising and he mentions several times he hates to improvise. 
The missing person case takes him deep into the Dormentalist Church. This is a church/cult organization that Mr. Wilson likens to Scientology.  Jack locates the missing son rather quickly but his curiosity is piqued about the organization with all its security cameras, acronyms and the mysterious globe in the office of the leader.  He just can't seem to leave well enough alone.  That is why he was selected for this job.
The blackmail case is more straightforward but then becomes enmeshed in the other case. Even though there a successful resolution to the blackmail case Sister Maggie comes to a very bad end.  Jack's anger and need for justice creates an even more ugly solution to the evil plans of Dormentalism.  Adversary and Ally take on a whole new context in a book that takes a strange turn in to the Other Worldly.  I understand why Dean likes this series.  Good and Evil meet and make for very strange situations.
I cannot say I loved this book but I couldn't leave it alone either.  I would put it down and then be glad to pick it up again.  I had to know where this crazy rabbit hole was going to end up.  I am still wondering.  I have already picked up book one "The Tomb" and I will keep you posted if the rest of this series holds up to this really weird 8th book. 

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