Author: F. Paul Wilson
I’ve reached a point in my read through of the Repairman Jack books that the next one I read is the conclusion to the entire series. I also see that it is the conclusion to something called the Adversary Cycle. Since it ties into the Repairman Jack books, I’ve decided to go back and read the Adversary Cycle books prior to reading that last installment because why spoil the ending to a whole separate series of books by an author I like that I’d probably end up reading eventually anyways? Up first in that series is The Keep, the events of which have been obliquely referenced in other Repairman Jack books.
Set during World War II (Pre-American involvement) The Keep is about a structure in the Dinu Pass in Romania that is seemingly abandoned but kept in pristine condition. The structure becomes relevant when German soldiers take up residence as part of a strategic location in their plan to eventually build a death camp in Romania. The story is told from five viewpoints:
1) A German Captain in charge of securing the keep, whose soldiers begin dying violently
2) A German Nazi S.S. Captain sent to the keep to find out what’s causing the deaths and to stop it
3) A Jewish man who has studied the keep for years and is brought in by the Nazi Captain to provide answers
4) The daughter of the Jewish man who is his caretaker and assistant in his studies
5) A mysterious man who travels to Romania to investigate what’s happening in the keep
Much like with the Richard Sharpe books, I much preferred the section with the non-Nazi Captain to those about the Nazi Captain. Characters written as evil for evil’s sake in the military tend to be less interesting and more monotonous than competent, more human characters. One of the best aspects of The Keep is that it provided both aspects in its German soldiers, a deft handling of the political and ethical climate of the era. The rivalry between the two officers is done very well, and provides much of the early tension before the supernatural elements begin appearing.
This being an F. Paul Wilson book, supernatural elements are a given. The setting and clues early on point to the culprit being a vampire (Romania, imagery of crosses, fatal wounds to the neck) and with Ghosts and demons having appeared in Repaiman Jack books I didn’t immediately rule that creature of the night out as a suspect. As more information into the force of evil appears, fans of this series will pick up on additional clues as to who or what is at work. Certainly anybody who has read the Repairman Jack series will anagram any bad guys name who shows up; if you haven’t read those books then that is not a spoiler.
As a stand alone novel this book works fine, but it is definitely more enjoyable as part of the overall Secret History universe Wilson has established. Glaeken on his own in this novel is an interesting character, however with his rushed into a few pages of dialogue he reads more like a dream man from a romance novel than the hero of a battle between good and evil. I prefer having discovered his history as it unfolded over several books in Repairman Jack then how it was quickly disclosed here.
The romance novel analogy is unfortunately not only present in revealing Glaeken’s past, but also in every seen between Magda (the Jewish daughter) and the mystery man. Wilson struggles with discussing Magda without either bringing up her physical attributes in the eyes of the German soldiers or the stirring pangs in her body for the forbidden touch of this man unlike any she has ever seen before. I can excuse some of the writing as an attempt at a 1940’s woman who was stifled in her development by being the caretaker for her father, but the vast majority of her characterization was distractingly bad whenever it was the focus.
As the first book in the Adversary Cycle, this did enough to get me interested to read more. At the end of my copy of the book was a chart outlining the chronological reading order of the rest of the Secret History books, so I’ll probably follow that instead of the Goodreads/Wikipedia recommended order. There are also several other books listed that go beyond Repairman Jack or the Adversary Cycle, in what I can only assume or Secret History books, so maybe I’ll try those out eventually as well (nothing like being a OCD when it comes to lengthy series).