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Fear City (Repairman Jack) by F. Paul Wilson
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330161
Date: 11 November 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Frustrated and furious, a handful of would-be jihadists take aim at New York City's greatest landmark. A mysterious cabal seeking chaos will back them but only if they change their target. A greedy mafioso wants payback, as well as payment for a fateful loan. And a young man still finding his way is about to crash into their plans like a wrecking ball, when he seeks justice.

And so it all ends. In Fear City, F. Paul Wilson's best-known character, Repairman Jack, is at the end of his adventures, circling around to the years before his debut in The Tomb.

It's the early, wintry days of 1993. Jack is 24, living in New York and struggling to get by. His friend Abe counsels him to put ads in the paper for "repair work", but Jack thinks the idea of being a "repairman" is ridiculous. When he encounters his old friend Cristin, though, he starts to think about how to make a real living--and whether he might possibly rekindle a romance.

Meanwhile, Kadir Allawi and his friends--all acolytes of the hate-mongering Sheikh Omar--want to bring jihad to the United States. They plan to set off a bomb deep beneath the World Trade Center, to topple one tower into the other, but they need money to make the bombs. When they approach Nasser al-Thani, an operative of the Septimus Order, he shares their plans with his colleagues Roman Trejador and Ernst Drexler--and both are aghast. The WTC is strictly off-limits, they tell him, so he tries to switch them to a different target in the city.

Kadir's sister Hadya fears for her brother and tries to learn what he is doing. This puts her on a dangerous course, as Kadir's associates are fanatics.

Desperate for funding, Kadir and his friends go to Tommy "Ten-Thumbs" Totaro, a member of the Gambino crime family. Tommy's own business interests have suffered a setback recently, so he makes a loan that Vinny "Donuts" Donato (who hates Tommy) thinks is a really bad idea: $10,000. Al-Thani promises he will also contribute if they go along with his suggested alternate target: the United Nations.

They devise a clever scheme to topple the Secretariat and General Assembly buildings. But they are being watched by the canny and deeply suspicious Dane Bertel, an old ally of Jack's, and when he acquires damning evidence, he hurries to get some backup to New York. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned...

And when one of Jack's handful of friends goes missing, Jack starts looking for answers. His trail will be painted in blood, as he goes against killers from the Septimus Order, a freelance archer named Reggie (whom he met once before), and the Muslim jihadists themselves. He will meet a torturer and a British security expert, and learn what Inferno Vivientes means. It will push Jack past his limits.

After this, nothing is the same.

Wilson brings things around with masterly skill in this final installment of Jack's adventures. The end of this book sets him on the road to where he will be in stories that follow chronologically, with his innocence behind him and a world of "fixes" ahead. Seeing what kinds of depravity men can inflict, Jack is no longer a bystander; he's an active participant, establishing justice where he can because he cannot look away. He might be reluctant but he's become a hero.

The plot is complex and contains, as do most of Wilson's books, a number of moving parts all working in parallel. The bomb plot, a disturbing discovery and Jack's subsequent quest for justice, Bertel's mounting suspicions of the "Mohammedans", a power struggle between two mafiosi in the shadow of a dying crime boss, a search for a telephone service in Brooklyn and then in the suburbs outside New York City...it's all going on at the same time, and yet Wilson keeps the narrative threads clean, only intersecting where and when they absolutely must.

The story unfolds over a handful of days, culminating in a real-life event that rocked the nation 21 years ago. How that played out in Jack's world makes for fascinating reading, as Jack's quest slowly but steadily reveals a bigger and much more dangerous picture. Tugging on one thread leads him to an entire tapestry of conspiracies and malevolence.

Wilson is at the top of his game here, bringing Jack full circle to where we readers can see him becoming who he was always meant to be. There are some great hairpin turns, twists and fateful encounters to keep readers turning pages breathlessly as everything builds to an abrupt change of plans...where several lives (and plotlines) will intersect explosively.

As a farewell, it's perhaps the best Jack could have wanted.

Highly recommended.

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