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Jack: Secret Circles (Repairman Jack) by F. Paul Wilson
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Teen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318558
Date: 02 February 2010 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Jack is back in this all-new YA novel by bestselling author F. Paul Wilson. Telling the story of Repairman Jack as a young teen, this novel finds the boy trying to "fix" several problems at once. But, as he learns, there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

More F. Paul Wilson:
Repairman Jack:
Infernal
Harbingers
Bloodline
Ground Zero
Young Jack:
Jack: Secret Histories
Jack: Secret Circles (Repairman Jack)

In Jack: Secret Circles, Wilson picks up the story from the earlier Jack: Secret Histories, wherein Jack and his friends, Weezy and Eddie Connell, got caught up in some strange doings in their quiet hometown of Johnson, NJ. Little Cody Bockman has disappeared while riding his bike, even as a wild-eyed man stumbles out of the Pine Barrens with claims of surviving an attack from a monster.

When Jack and Weezy investigate, they find a stone pyramid in the Barrens with markings similar to the small, ancient pyramid they found (and lost) not long before. This new pyramid, however, seems to have been a cage, as the bones in the muddy bottom indicate. But what was caged there and where is it now?

Jack also learns that the sinister Septimus Order has the pyramid that was stolen from them. Hoping to get close and learn more, Jack figures out a clever way to do exactly that. Meanwhile, a family friend turns out to be hiding some very dark secrets--something that disturbs Jack so much, he decides he has to fix this problem with help from a camcorder and some amateur spywork.

Not everything goes according to plan, leaving Jack and Weezy pursued by a monstrous thing deep underground. It seems that there's a lot of secrets buried under this sleepy little town, and some of them are rising to the surface.

In this novel, Wilson achieves something singular and special: he shows his hero in an entirely new light, challenged by tough decisions that will help shape him into the champion he is destined to become. While retaining the heady excitement of a classic Hardy Boys story, Wilson goes deeper, confronting Jack with a horrible problem--domestic violence--and showing that there are no easy answers. Even the best intentions can have unexpected and terrible consequences. It's a realization that will inform Jack's choice of career, as well as how he will do his work. It's extremely sophisticated storytelling, beneath the veneer of being an exciting tale for younger readers.

Jack is not alone in his path toward adulthood. We meet the young Weezy Connell (whose adult self has already appeared in the Repairman Jack saga) and see those traits that will shape her into the brilliant but erratic conspiracy theorist she becomes. We also see where Eddie's future choices are well grounded in who he was as a youth.

Finally, we get a good look at Mr. Drexler, who will play a large role in Jack's adult adventures. He's a slippery and elusive character, whose shadow looms over a considerable amount of the story. His role in events as they unwind is fascinating, partly because he is not a stock villain; his motives are somewhat sinister, true, but his part in things is probably not what most readers would expect.

Wilson has created an engaging, fast-paced and yet deeply thought provoking work that builds upon (and builds up) the Repairman Jack mythos. It might seem like a book for younger readers, but Wilson's many fans will want to grab a copy right away.

Strongly recommended.

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