The Apocalypse Door
James D. Macdonald
Publishers Weekly14 October 2002
Lead review, Science Fiction & Fantasy section
THE APOCALYPSE DOOR
James D. Macdonald
A dash of medieval mystery adds zest to this inventive melange of hardboiled thriller and speculative fantasy. The refreshingly original hero, Peter Crossman, is an Inner Temple soldier in the Knights Templar, an order of paramilitary priests that has existed [since its] presumed dismantling in the fourteenth century. Although he's used to challenging missions, Peter's latest proves a doozy when a tip on the whereabouts of a missing UN peacekeeping team leads to him a warehouse in Newark and a crate of living mushrooms that appear to flinch at the Sign of the Cross. Peter and his partner Simon later stumble on the gruesomely mutilated bodies of their confederates, and wind up in the hands of the Teutonic Knights, a heretical rival sect whose figurehead, a brazen talking effigy, is the otherworldly key to past and present intrigues that have bedevilled Peter and his order. The jolts and torques of the rollercoaster plot are completely unpredictable, but Macdonald sets them up credibly, with subtly deployed clues and skillful misdirection of the reader to supernatural explanations for crucial plot developments. The Knights Templar angle also gives the events an interesting moral dimension and a distinctive focus for the development of Peter's character through the unique obligations it creates (such as having to give absolution to an assassin preparing to kill him in an early scene). Though other novels have blended mysticism, mystery and fantasy, few have done it as smartly or succinctly as this one.
Breezy spy spoof as members of the medieval Knights Templar have survived to modern times and find themselves in a complicated intrigue with their rivals, the Teutonic Knights, as well as with the CIA, the UN, what might be a Soviet matter-transmitter, a purloined cultic idol and a suave Manhattan Satanist who has been "excommunicated for giving evil a bad name." As one of the 33 priests of the Knights Templar's inner circle, Peter Crossman (man of the cross, get it?) can take confession, administer last rites, speak Latin, and do every James Bond stunt except sleep with Maggie, his beautiful partner in virtue, who happens to be a nun and trained assassin. Together with Simon, a Templar trainee uncomfortably proficient at safecracking, they're assigned to break into a warehouse in Newark, New Jersey, and search for a bunch of UN peacekeepers who've been kidnapped from Jerusalem. They find a barrel of fungus so vile it sets Maggie's rosary on fire. A Templar agent who's supposed to explain everything winds up dead behind a Manhattan strip-club, his face sliced off. After consulting the defrocked Satanist and part-time art thief, Francis X. Dalyrmple, the trio goes back and forth across the Hudson, pursued by Teutonic Knight bad guys, CIA double agents, and a horde of stinking fungoid zombies as they locate the Baphomet, a telepathic, matter-transporting idol that might be fulfilling the prophecies presaging the apocalypse. Macdonald, co-author (with his wife, Debra Doyle) of the Mageworlds fantasy series, sweetens his farce with puns, comic asides, references to The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and, in a parallel narrative of Crossman's earlier life as a CIA agent, wonderfully bad Hemingway ("You are such a woman and I am such a man"). Cloak-and-dagger meets robe-and-Psalter with jokes and swagger, all just for fun.
When a UN peacekeeping force goes missing, agent Peter Crossman, a modern-day Knight Templar, must find it. Joined by Simon, his apprentice, and Maggie, a professional assassin and a member of the Order of Poor Claires, Crossman uncovers information leading to a diabolical scheme to open a gate to hell. The author, who co-writes the "Mageworlds" series with wife Debra Doyle, applies his bare-bones style to a fast- paced tale of supernatural intrigue featuring hard-as-nails heroes on a literal mission from God. A good choice for most libraries. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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