It comes as no surprise that the leading exponent of subtle dark fantasy would have the apocalypse begin not with worldwide war, pestilence and famine, but with the eerie tolling of a church bell on a quiet summer night in rural New Jersey. Here, as in his earlier novels, Grant (Jackals) dissects the lives in an average small town and finds in the personal and social tensions that shape them the rhythms of something sinister, and possibly supernatural. But in this first volume of his projected Millennium Quartet, he raises the stakes for a gamble that only partly pays off. Forsaking his usual understated characterizations, Grant probes the personality of Casey Chisholm, a troubled Episcopalian minister who suddenly finds himself endowed with miraculous powers to control the local fauna and raise the dead. While Casey struggles to understand his wild talents, they serve as a homing beacon for a carload of criminals who represent evil incarnate and who are accelerating their nationwide spree of slaughter to a bloody climax in Casey's sleepy adopted home of Maple Landing. Grant seeds the story with a succession of portentous images culled from previous novels: a phantom horse, an ominous black sedan and a simple tune, begun with that pealing bell, that reaches a crescendo as a funereal dirge. These touches prove more affective than effective, however; they illuminate neither the story's millennial prognostications nor the mysterious identities of the major players. Like the Book of Revelations to which it frequently alludes, Grant's tale of ordinary folk striving to learn the part they play in the cosmic scheme is as elliptic as it is intriguing. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1997 Release date: 02/01/1997 Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-8125-6283-5
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