June 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Crisscross by F. Paul Wilson
Gauntlet HCVR: ISBN 1887368701 PubDate: 05/01/04
Review by Ernest Lilley

407 pgs. List price $55
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If you haven’t read any Repairman Jack novels, and I confess that I fall into this sad state, you should be able to get up to speed fairly quickly, but it’s neither the beginning nor the end of the series. My sources tell me that the whole story arc has already been written and Wilson is filling in pieces in the middle, so you might want to check the chronology of the books before jumping in. The author has put together a terrific site (Repairman Jack Site) and you can find the latest chronology at: http://www.repairmanjack.com/news.html#1.

Jack is sort of a private eye living in New York City and taking care of problems for people who are usually pretty desperate. While PI types usually live outside society to some degree, Jack does more so, not actually having a legal identity at all, but working through assumed ones when he has to show up on radar. Why is all in backstory and I can’t fill it in for you, but he’s clearly a good guy, if not unwilling to get his hands dirty, and he knows the ropes. But that’s not all. Jack’s also at the center of some sort of psychic battle that’s coming to a head, and he’s just coming to realize that the coincidences in his life are anything but. He does know that he’s really started to hate coincidences though, and he’s not all that wild about little old women with dogs telling him what’s going to happen next, because they’re all too often right.

Crisscross begins with Jack taking on two unrelated cases, one apparently a missing persons gig for an old lady (with a dog) and money. Her nephew joined up with a cult religion and disappeared. Could he slip inside and take a look around? Cost isn’t an issue, she’d just like to know that he’s alright. The other case has more apparent mystery, though appearances are often deceiving. Maggie’s a woman being blackmailed for something she won’t talk about, but a friend recommended Jack and he’s her last hope. It doesn’t take Jack long to figure out that Maggie may not have many bad habit’s but she wears a black one as a nun, and the friend that recommended him is undoubtedly a priest that Jack helped a while back. So Jack goes off to work on both cases.

In the meantime, Jack’s girlfriend Gia is pregnant with his baby and Jack is worried for her, the baby, and for Gia’s young daughter Vicky. While he’s right to worry about Gia and the baby, because a series of coincidences threaten there health, he doesn’t need to worry about Vicky, who is one capable kid.

The nun’s blackmailer turns out to be someone Jack’s crossed path’s with before, and taking care of the evidence turns out to be tricky, but not beyond Jack’s abilities. What’s tougher is getting Maggie off the hook without letting on that she sent Jack or that she knows that she’s safe from the scandal, details that authors rarely consider. On the cult front, Jack manages to manufacture, with a little help from friends, the identity of a wealthy recluse, just the sort of person that the money hungry cult would love to recruit, and ascends rapidly along the rungs of their New York headquarters.

Solving the cases he’s taken turns out to be the easy part. Destroying the evidence against Maggie, finding the missing “nephew”. Doable and done. But that’s just the beginning, and what seemed straightforward jobs for other people suddenly become convoluted messes that Jack is very personally involved in, and on which hangs the fate of much more than the old lady, Maggie, Gia, Vicky, Jack or his unborn child. And, as they say in thrillers, the body count is rising.

Author F. Paul Wilson skillfully blends noir fantasy and gumshoe tale to provide yarns both immediate and apocalyptic. Fans of either form, or both, would be well advised to fix themselves up with a copy of any of the Repairman Jack novels, and anyone already a fan of the series has undoubtedly gotten themselves a copy of Crisscross.

If you don’t mind your Fantasy-PI genres mixed, and a bit gritty, I’d recommend catching up on Jack’s fixer-uppers without delay. Bad things do happen to good people, and some bad people, so be prepared.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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