Review

Heaven's Fury

by Stephen Frey

With HEAVEN’S FURY, Stephen Frey takes yet another step
away from the financial thrillers for which he is primarily known.
While not containing his best writing, it is certainly one of the
most interesting stories that he has told to date.

HEAVEN’S FURY is set almost entirely in Bruner, Wisconsin,
a rural town that is split right down the middle between the
“haves” and the “have-not-quite-so-much.”
The “haves” consist of the wealthy families who own
magnificent summer homes on one side of the town and exercise a
de facto control over the entire municipality, even when
they are absent. The other half is given over to the year-round
residents who work the temporary residents, as it were. Paul
Summers is Bruner’s sheriff, a position that he was more or
less jammed into. He has had a checkered law enforcement career
that has been on a downward trajectory due to a series of set-ups
that have resulted in his returning to his hometown to take the
less-than-glorious position he occupies.

A great deal of the reason for his misfortune can be laid at the
feet of Lewis Prescott, one of the summer residents. Summers got
crossways with Prescott when Summers was the star quarterback at
the local high school and fell under the spell of Prescott’s
daughter, Cindy. Prescott broke up the romance and has been riding
Summers ever since, even after Cindy’s marriage to a highly
influential politician with presidential aspirations. Summers
married Vivian, a woman with a checkered past and a moody
disposition who is all too well aware that her husband still has
feelings for his high school lover. The already simmering situation
explodes when Cindy is found brutally murdered at the Prescott
estate, the victim of an apparent ritual execution.

The death hits Summers personally and professionally, given his
long-unresolved relationship with the victim, his status as lead
investigator, and the fact that he was the last person to see Cindy
before she died. Worse, Prescott seems set on both hijacking and
subverting the investigation. It appears, given the ritual aspect
of Cindy’s murder and other mysterious events in the town,
that a cult is operating in the area. Yet Prescott wants the
evidence “scrubbed” of any cult involvement, for
reasons best known to himself. Summers is a complicated man, prone
to error and more likely to be buffeted by events than to get
proactive and control situations. Still, he is a dogged
investigator, and as he slowly begins to put together the reasons
behind Cindy’s murder and Prescott’s behavior, he
uncovers a simmering cauldron of greed, betrayal and revenge that
threatens to explode the uneasy, deceptively tranquil atmosphere of
the rural Wisconsin town that he has called home.

While Frey does not seem entirely surefooted during
HEAVEN’S FURY, with the change of scenery and topic that held
sway over his earlier work, there is an extremely interesting
mystery at the core of his story that keeps the book and the reader
moving. Frey also utilizes an interesting literary tool wherein he
ends each chapter on a (more or less) cliffhanger, the resolution
of which is subsequently answered at some point in the next chapter
or beyond. While this does not work every time, it certainly
propels the storyline along so that there is never really a place
where one wants to stop reading. And that pretty much says it
all.

As I’ve noted, there are some weaknesses, including a
couple of holes in the plot and Summers himself, who I just could
never quite get a handle upon. These are minor quibbles, however,
given the quality of the overall story and setting, which should
keep Frey’s fans happy and bring some new readers to the fold
as well.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Heaven's Fury
by Stephen Frey

  • Publication Date: August 30, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket
  • ISBN-10: 1416549684
  • ISBN-13: 9781416549680