Late last night I finished reading Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo. I noticed in the "happy blurb" section that people were comparing this book favorably with The DaVinci Code. And after reading it, I have to agree. The similarities are startling and that's not a good thing.
But let's talk plot first. Liparulo puts together an exciting thriller. FBI Special Agents Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner are on the trail of a man they call the Pelletier killer, a supposed serial killer who is literally cutting a bloody trail through the western United States. Little do they realize that their investigation is also putting them on a collision course with a man who believes that he is the Antichrist, the prophesied destroyer. Soon they're in danger for their very lives as they try to unravel the plot.
I'm not sure I can go much more into the plot than I already did without giving a lot of it away. That was part of the fun in reading this book. The plot was pretty complex, with seemingly unrelated strands that started to come together only toward the end. That's what kept me reading: how was the killer related to the Antichrist? Why did he target his victims? And when we learned the answer to that question, it just raised more.
There were definitely some very action packed sequences that kept me on the edge of my seat. One in particular had me sweating profusely for Brady and his adorable son, Zach. And Alicia, while a bit crude around the edges, was a fun breath of fresh air for the most part.
The book itself is extremely edgy, especially for Christian fiction. I'll be honest, I was a bit surprised at some of the graphic details that were included. For example, in the first chapter, we have an individual hiding in a bathroom ventilation system trying to peek at a woman using the facilities. And the Pelletier killer ... well, I'll leave that alone right now. Let's just say that what he does isn't sugarcoated in any way. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're squeamish, this one isn't for you.
As much as I wanted to really enjoy this book, though, there were a few things that got in my way. First of all, there were craft issues galore. Liparulo is a wordy individual (and I say that as a fellow wordy guy). I suspect he could have really tightened this book and trimmed a lot of excess verbiage. Toward the end, I was literally skimming the book, leaping over elaborate descriptions that could have been summed up in a paragraph or two.
More problematic is his seeming fascination with flashbacks. Two thirds of the chapters seem to start with a character remembering something. And usually, that something didn't have much to contribute to the overall plot. A few times, I got a bit confused because I thought that the flashback was actually happening right then and there. As a matter of fact, I thought at one point that Brady and Alicia kissed in the back seat of a taxi. Could have knocked me over with a feather. And then I reread it and realized that no, Brady was just remembering a flirtatious encounter with his wife. To put it simply, Liparulo did waaaaay too many flashbacks.
But what really annoyed me (and this is the part that really reminded me of The DaVinci Code) is the fact that Liparulo played fast and loose with facts, things that he should have known better from a little research.
For example, at one point, he says that Hasidic Jews wear black "to symbolize the sect's mourning of the destruction of King Solomon's temple in AD 70." Yes, that's a direct quote. Does anyone else see a problem here? Like the fact that Solomon's temple was actually destroyed in 597 BC by the Babylonians? Or that it was the temple built by King Herod that was destroyed in 70 AD? I know, it's nit-picky, but come on! This is something Liparulo should have caught easily. Most Bibles have this information in their footnotes or, if they have articles about buildings like the Temple, the information is there.
Now if this were the only thing, I wouldn't be all that upset. I'd readily admit that it's nitpicky. But what really maddened me was the fact that Liparulo played fast and loose with the belief system of the Roman Catholic Church. About three quarters of the way through the book, we hear a Catholic Cardinal discuss the Antichrist and he basically parrots what dispensational premillennialists believe about him. He'll be a political figure, descended from Rome, who preaches peace but really intends for war. He'll be closely allied with Israel. He'll rule a conglomeration of 10 kingdoms. So on and so forth.
Small problem: Roman Catholics are not dispensational premillennialists. In other words, a Roman Catholic Cardinal would not describe the Antichrist that way. Having those words come out of this man's mouth is as incongruous as hearing a dyed in the wool Republican supporting a public option in the current health care debate. Okay, so maybe that's not the best example, but you get the idea. It just would not happen.
It's further evidence and the worst example of the unfortunate homogenization of Christian fiction. I've railed about that before, but this one really torked me off. It's not just that differing viewpoints are glossed over. Now the "accepted theology" is being crammed into the mouths of people who would never hold it. It'd be like having a Lutheran pastor preach a sermon filled with decision theology, or a staunch Baptist espouse infant baptism. It's not realistic and it completely shattered my enjoyment of this book. After I encountered that point, I only kept reading to see how it would all end.
And speaking of the ending, I was a bit horrified at how the main plot resolved itself. I can't get into too many details right now, but the cavalier attitude of one character over the resolution just sickened me, especially given that this is a Christian book. Sure, it was all done by unsanctified hands, but even still.
Don't get me wrong, Liparulo is a very imaginative reader. His backstory for the Pelletier killer is imaginative and very reminiscent of The DaVinci Code (and that's a good thing in this case). But if he would have done better research, this might have been a great book.