Angels, Demons and the Mad Monk:
A review of Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn
It wouldn't be giving too much away to explain that as the curtain opens on Dmitri, he's in the act of rising from the dead. He wakes up, one year to the day after the accidental death of his parents, to the pedestrian sounds of an autopsy being performed. He quickly realizes he is lying naked in an icy compartment of the same temperature and dimensions one would commonly associate with the morgue. Luckily he is not the one being routinely dissected. We soon learn more details behind Dmitri's resurrection. Surprise: it involves an assignment to cover a seance at the local haunted house, the Aspinwall mansion, where he somehow blunders into an open well in the basement. In the subsequent surreal panic of drowning, Dmitri has a vision of a waifish figure, the eponymous Poe. So begins our mystery.
Ms. Fenn clearly knows how to manipulate suspense. She slowly reveals Dmitri's story through his own discovery of his parents' mysterious pasts. And thankfully he doesn't have to face his revelations alone. There are a host of supporting characters to either aid or hinder our hero's quest for normalcy. Not the least of whom is Lisa, a receptionist at the nearby nursing home and a part-time punk rock drummer. She fulfills the role of love interest. Her brother, Daniel, has a history of mental illness and demonic violence, and has recently gone missing from the psychiatric facility. There is even a character you might call a perfect angel. But the ingredient that makes this book unique is the shadowy hulk of Rasputin the so-called Mad Monk, arguably the most influential figure in Russia during the reign of the last tsar and tsarina, Nicholas II and Alexandra.
|The "Mad Monk", Grigori Rasputin|
Although Ms. Fenn's narrative voice is strong, the reader will be able to detect some gender crosstalk, which in such a solid debut can be overlooked. The author, however, does a neat job of tying everything together plausibly with of course some major suspension of disbelief usually accorded to the Gothic horror genre. Indeed the genre itself is in need of some literary revamping, if for no other reason than to restore the respectability it had attained near its inception when progenitors like Shelley, Stoker, Collins, and Edgar Allan Poe were still contributing to their respective oeuvres.