Look out James Rollins, Steve Berry, and all the other mega-thriller writers, William G. Davis has written the sequel to Pagan Moon and it’s one helluva ride. The story opens with a series of gruesome murders that baffle the authorities. At the same time, Mike Gage, hero of Pagan Moon, has been summoned to his father’s deathbed.
For students of The Writer’s Journey, there is a “Call to Action” that drives our hero to pursue the bad guys. How well that call to action hews to the formula is what separates great from so-so.
In a formula novel, connecting the two scenes would dictate that the authorities consult Mr. Gage with deep respect for his authority. In reality, bureaucrats would give him a perfunctory call and dismiss his knowledge immediately. But here is where an inventive and resourceful author can depart from the norm and create a scene that fits. I’ll not give it away, but I promise you will find Mr. Davis’ solution fascinating.
Black Karma also moves with a variable pace to keep you rolling from death-defying plunges of action and conflict, into personal moments of reflection. Here is an example of the calm before the storm:
I was at the rail, watching the sun’s low winter angle shimmer off the water like so many sequins on a torch singer’s dress. I’d come to welcome its calming sight. It was like therapy to overcome my own recent nightmare.
And throughout the book we find gems of a romantic American philosophy:
In those silent moments before she returned, I felt a connection with someone I hadn’t known for a long time, a naive steelworker’s kid who felt his country was always right, that the divisions between good and evil were always clear, and that love between two people was simple. The hard shell constructed around that vulnerability was the crucible of experience. Cynicism had replaced innocence, skepticism had overcome faith, but somewhere deep inside was that spark that still wanted to believe. Laura was the oxygen making it glow.
There are some fairly gruesome scenes throughout the book, perfectly gruesome. They set up the cataclysm from the middle to the electrifying end. This book will keep you up wondering about the author’s mental health: How could such a nice guy dream up such scary scenarios? And the premise will enthrall you from beginning to end.
What makes the story work so well is the realistic romance between middle-aged hero and his high school sweetheart with the inclusion of the jaded teenager. In the final confrontation, Mr. Davis pulls all the elements together in a way you will not see coming—even though you thought you had it figured out.
Bottom line: If you love thrillers, you’ll love Black Karma. (I recommend reading Pagan Moon first, but it’s not required.)