Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mini Review: "The Wrath of God" by Jack Higgins

Last year, I wrote that I had just been introduced to the writings of Jack Higgins, and had enjoyed reading his work, “Without Mercy.” I have just gone back to the Higgins buffet line for a second helping, this time reading “The Wrath of God.” Higgins writes in the action genre with a sparse style that reminds me a bit of Hemingway. It has the feel of a spaghetti Western that would be filmed with a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

In “The Wrath of God,” Higgins creates bleak and arid landscapes – externally, located in a parched Mexican backwater – and internally, located in the desiccated souls of his characters. The characters come to life as memorably flawed human beings. The protagonist – but hardly a hero – is Emmett Keogh, an embittered former IRA assassin who can no longer remember how many people he has called or why he killed them. Circumstances throw him in conflict and in partnership with Van Horne and Janos. Van Horne is a defrocked priest turned back robber, and Janos is an ex-patriot Hungarian doing business rapaciously in post-Civil War Mexico of the 1920’s.

Though an action novel through and through, with the feel of film noir to it, “The Wrath of God,” consistently poses spiritual questions: “Can the reprobate find forgiveness?” "Is it incongruous for an avowed atheist to hunger for a spiritual connection?” “Can a deadened and benumbed soul be brought back to life?”

Higgins has a long list of novels to his credit. I expect to continue sampling them for the foreseeable future.



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