Volume 23, Number 02, Winter 2005


By F. Paul Wilson

Gauntlet Publications/Tor Forge, 2004
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
November 2005

Crisscross is F. Paul Wilson’s eighth Repairman Jack novel. The series began with, The Tomb, first published in the early 1980s. Nearly two decades passed before another novel, however Jack never went away. He re-appeared in occasional short stories in a variety of anthologies. Then, 14 years later the official sequel, Legacies (1998), appeared. Wilson cleaned up the original to wash away the years and early 80s references. Repairman Jack stands as the most through-going libertarian character in fiction; he lives outside the state’s laws and regulations and adheres to a strict code of ethics.

There’s a the human and supernatural element in the RP stories. Jack deals with real monsters (human and otherwise), as well as forces of evil known as the Otherness. In the years between the original RP novel and Legacies, Wilson wrote several novels dealing with an entity known as the adversary. These books, as well as some short stories and another novel, The Touch, later merged into what Wilson calls the Adversary Cycle. In terms of fictional narrative, the world will end in Nightworld, which looms in Jack’s near future. In the meantime, Wilson fills in more of Jack’s life leading up to the final battle. Each such chapter results in a new Repairman Jack novel, at the pace of about one novel per year.

The title of the novel refers to a pattern of lines in a map that Jack discovers has ominous implications for humanity, and also how two apparently separate jobs that Jack undertakes seem to converge and cross. After visiting his father in Florida (covered in the previous RJ novel, Gateways), Jack is back on his home ground, New York City. He is contacted about a simple fix-it job. A blackmailer threatens the life and future of a woman, who asks Jack to secure the photos hanging over her head. The job unravels disastrously, but Jack sees justice through to the end.

Another job crops up at the same time. An old woman hires Jack to discover the whereabouts of her son, who joined a cult some years ago. This cult, which goes under the name Dormentalism, and might be seen as a riff on Scientology, with it’s emphasis on being instructed into higher levels of thought through loyalty and financial sacrifice, and eagerness to attack any person who criticizes the church, including former members and journalists.

This Dormentalist group currently is led by Luther Brady, whom Jack discovers working on a secret project connected to the Otherness: planting strange columns in nexus points highlighted on a map of the earth. Once these points all are activated, they will spark the return of the Adversary.

Jack learns more about this future enemy, the supernatural being known as Rashalom (who played key roles in The Keep, and the original Adversary trilogy (Reborn, Reprisal, and Nightworld), from the woman who hired him to investigate the cult, a woman who seems to belong to the same group as the old woman Jack met in Gateways. According to these people, Jack is an ally in the fight against the Adversary. Jack dislikes any hint that his life may be outside his control. But although he must satisfy a greater need, there’s still time for Jack to settle some personal scores.

Crisscross is a superb novel, combining elements of the detective genre, thriller, horror, and exposé, all wrapped up in rich individualist colors. Hero or anti-hero? Jack is both, and renders the label almost useless.

The books arrive via an unusual publication history. The first editions appear courtesy of Gauntlet Press (www.gauntlepress.com), a superb Colorado-based small press publisher. For around $50 you get a limited edition, signed by the author, several months ahead of the mass market hardcover. Recent books also have included a small chapbook outline of the novel, a window into Wilson’s creative. Some months after the Gauntlet Press edition, Tor/Forge releases a nicely packaged mass market hardcover, and some time after that, the paperback edition. Rabid Repairman Jack fans can look forward to July, when Gauntlet releases the ninth RJ novel, Infernal. But order quickly: the 450 numbered edition is almost sold out.

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