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Exorcist Falls: Includes the novella Exorcist Road Kindle Edition
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EXORCIST FALLS, by Jonathan Janz, begins with his novella, EXORCIST ROAD, and immediately continues into the novel EXORCIST FALLS. Although I read the original novella when it was first released, I loved the convenience of having it included here in order to refresh my memory, as the novel takes place directly after those events.
The main location for EXORCIST ROAD is in the Hartman home, where a teenaged boy, Casey, is displaying indisputable signs of demonic possession. Father Sutherland and his protégée, Father Jason Crowder, have been summoned by the parents with the hope of exorcizing the evil. Linked to this timeline are the atrocities being committed to sixteen year old girls, by the "Sweet Sixteen Killer". It soon becomes evident that the force inside of young Casey knows all the details about the murders and mutilations that have been occurring.
". . . But it was the leer stretching his lips that did it, the soulless, mocking grin that erased all semblance of humanity from that horrid face."
The intricate details and confined setting suit this novella perfectly. Janz is able to fully develop each and every one of his characters here, without resorting to throwing random comments at the readers. He uses dialog, internal thoughts, and the dynamic relationships between the key players to give us that feeling of truly "knowing" these people.
". . . nothing in that face resembled human feeling. Or perhaps it was the horror we all wore beneath our carefully constructed masks."
Then we get to the full novel, EXORCIST FALLS. Taking place immediately afterward, the location changes constantly. While we still have the strong personalities that we are familiar with, I can't help but feel that the atmosphere seemed a little less intense due to the continuous shifts in both characters, and places. At the crux of this is Father Crowder--his struggle with his vows, beliefs, and desires that all people face.
". . . wasn't that another example of man's hubris? To believe he could manipulate the sinister forces that ruled the night? . . . "
EXORCIST FALLS is a more action driven book, whereas its predecessor was built up primarily upon the emotions and inner desires of its characters. Here, Janz treats us to scenes of unimaginable agony, gore, and depravity--showcasing his ability to diversify his writing focus, even within the same storyline.
"We all have secrets . . ."
With the wider "playing field", and additional roles added, there were some moments that I felt could have done with a bit more depth, and some of the characters that we got to know so well earlier seemed to lose focus completely. Although a few scenes came off as predictable, Janz still managed to throw me completely off guard towards the end.
". . . never doubt for an instant . . . that man does possess a shadow side, a tendency towards darkness . . . We desire control, and though we have been given free will, we seek to exert our will over others."
EXORCIST FALLS takes us much further than the events in EXORCIST ROAD, leaving the reader in shock through the very final pages. Nothing seemed to be off-limits in this nightmarish sequel.
Overall, I'm giving five stars to EXORCIST ROAD, and four stars to EXORCIST FALLS, for an average of 4.5 stars. Janz has already proven that he is an author on his way up--you don't want to miss out on this one!
Many have already summarized the plot, and better than I could, so I won't repeat it. I will say that Janz has a mastery of vocabulary, and usually uses it in the best way. A couple of times I found thoughts and dialogue a bit stilted. Mostly, though, he makes the story flow smoothly and seamlessly. There are some unexpected plot twists that upped the suspense throughout.
If I were to offer a criticism, it would focus on Father Crowder's behavior, particularly the betrayal of a penitent in confession. A priest would not even consider revealing something uttered under the seal of confession. The sacrament of confession is inviolable; the penitent is speaking to God. A priest who would do this would be automatically excommunicated. Further, an exorcism must be approved by a bishop and would not be revealed to a standing-room-only crowd in a cathedral. Demonic possession I can believe in. The willingness of a priest to subvert Canon law I cannot.
Overall, I found this to be a great story, and I even hope that Janz will revisit Father Crowder again. Four solid stars.
My favorite kind of sequel is one that continues the story but takes it in a different direction, making each book unique. Such is the case with Exorcist Falls. While the earlier story takes place in a few hours in one location, the novel opens up the world. Father Crowder's battle against supernatural evil goes from a professional calling to something much more personal.
I say this in every Jonathan Janz review, and I will keep saying it because it is always true. The characters in Exorcist Falls are alive and make the stakes feel higher. In particular I was impressed with Father Patterson. He was first presented as the typical hardcase boss who has it in for our hero, but is revealed gradually to be a sympathetic character with real reasons for his behavior and became my favorite character in the book.
If you are a horror fan and haven't read Jonathan Janz yet I urge you to correct this major oversight. His books are consistently excellent and I look forward to each one. Five stars, highly recommended.