The ancients saw Death as a blazing figure on horseback, swift and merciless. Those facing the black chasm often mistook their pounding hearts for the beating of hooves.
Now, two FBI agents pursuing a killer from a centuries-old cult realize they have become his prey.
Toward the end of this debut novel, its heroine, FBI Special Agent Alicia Wagner, summarizes its plot to herself, characterizing it as "the stuff of bad movies." Indeed, with its myriad contrivances, gratuitous gore and tedious explanations of crime-scene investigation technology, this novel does feel like the screenplay for a formulaic suspense thriller. Complete with earnest, good-looking law enforcement agents, an even better-looking Antichrist candidate and gory murders committed on his behalf by a modern-day Viking, this novel travels territory familiar to fans of both contemporary crime thrillers and apocalyptic Christian fiction. However, there are strong points: Liparulo's prose style is smooth, and he, like many contemporary Christian novelists, avoids miscues of previous generations of Christian fiction. For example, while he engages in some gender stereotyping, his heroine is actually tougher than her male counterpart. And rather than making liberal Christians evil and conservative Christians good, this novel, much like Ted Dekker's best work, does not draw such simple distinctions. Rather, Liparulo weaves conservative Christian belief into the novel with subtlety and restraint. While these virtues do not entirely make up for the novel's tendency toward convolution and suspenselessness, Liparulo may well find a readership among existing fans of Christian thrillers. (Nov. 3)
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October 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo
Chapter One Five years ago Asia House, Tel Aviv, Israel He waited with his face pressed against the warm metal and his pistol gouging the skin at his lower back. He thought about pulling the weapon from his waistband, setting it beside him or even holding it in his hand, but when the time came, he'd have to move fast, and he didn't want it getting in his way. He'd been there a long time, since well before the first party guests started arriving. Now it sounded as though quite a crowd had gathered on the third floor of the big building. Their voices drifted to him through the ventilation shaft, reverberating off its metal walls, reaching his ears as a jumble of undulating tones, punctuated at times by shrill laughter. He would close his eyes for long periods and try to discern the conversations, but whether by distortion or foreign tongue, even single words eluded him. Luco Scaramuzzi lifted his cheek out of a pool of perspiration and peered for the hundredth time through the two-foot-square grille below him. He could still see the small spot on the marble floor where a bead of sweat had dropped from the tip of his nose before he could stop it. If that spot were the center point of a clock face, the toilet was at noon, the sink and vanity at two o'clock, and the door--just beyond Luco's view--at three. Despite the large room's intended function as a lavatory for one, modesty or tact had prompted the mounting of walnut partitions on the two unwalled sides of the toilet. It was these partitions that would allow him to descend from the air shaft without being seen by a person standing at the sink--by his target. A gust of pungent wind blew past him, turning his stomach and forcing him to gasp for air through the grille. The building was home to several embassies, an art gallery, and a restaurant--enough people, food, and trash to generate some really awful effluvia. When the cooling system was idle, the temperature in the ventilation shafts quickly soared into summer-sun temperatures, despite the nighttime hour, and all sorts of odors roamed the ducts like rabid dogs. Then the air conditioner would kick in, chasing away the smells and freezing the perspiration to his body. Arjan had warned him about such things. He had explained that covert operations necessitated subjecting the body and senses to elements sane men avoided: extreme heat and cold; long stretches of immobility in the most uncomfortable places and positions; contact with insects, rodents, decay. He had advised him to focus on a single object and think pleasant thoughts until equilibrium returned. Luco shifted his eyes to a perfume bottle on the vanity. He imagined its fragrance, then thought of himself breathing it in as his fingers lifted hair away from the curve of an olive-skinned neck and felt the pulse with his lips. He heard the bathroom door open and pulled his face back into the darkness. He held his breath, then exhaled when he heard the click of a woman's heels. Her shoes came into view, then her legs and body. Of course she was elegantly dressed. Not only did the nature of the gathering demand it, but this room was reserved for special guests--the target, his family, and his entourage: people who were expected to look their best. The woman stopped in front of the vanity mirror, glanced at herself, and continued into the stall. Turning, she yanked up her dress. Hooked by two thumbs, her hosiery came down as she sat. The top of the partition's door obstructed Luco's view of her lap, and during the bathroom visits of two other lovely ladies, he had found that no amount of craning would change that fact. So he lay still and watched her face. She was model-beautiful, with big green eyes, sculpted cheekbones, and lips too full to be natural. She finished, flushed, and walked to the sink, where she was completely out of view. This reassured him that the plan had