COMES A HORSEMAN, Robert Liparulo's debut novel, is almost 500
pages long. But it seems like a much shorter work when you're in
the middle of it, turning pages as fast as possible while at the
same time terrified to find out what will happen next.
Liparulo begins by putting the reader on a merry-go-round of
introductions to a riveting cast of characters, which includes Luco
Scaramuzzi, a debonair and dangerous ambassador who fancies himself
to be the antichrist long promised in scripture; Brady Moore, an
FBI profiler who is reeling emotionally, professionally and
spiritually following the death of his wife; Olaf, an enigmatic and
frightening assassin who, accompanied by a trio of wolves, is on a
killing spree throughout the southwestern United States with no
apparent motive or pattern; and Alicia Wagner, a no-nonsense
Federal agent whose persistence in the development of a forensic
evidence tool may hold the key to the entire puzzle linking all of
these elements together.
The plot of COMES A HORSEMAN is complex, though Liparulo, a veteran
film scriptwriter, does an excellent job of guiding the reader
through the labyrinthian path of occurrences. Wagner and Moore are
put in charge of investigating the Pelletier Killings, a series of
brutal beheadings with no apparent links among the victims.
Liparulo puts the reader right in the room during the investigation
of one of these murders, and it's not a pretty sight. Now is as
good a time as any to warn you that if graphic depictions of
violence or its aftermath bother you, there are certain passages
here that you will want to skip, particularly if you're in the
habit of chowing down on a BK Broiler while reading.
Wagner and Moore ultimately find that the victims were linked by a
common yet unexpected experience that in turn has a profound and
frightening connection to Biblical Scripture. This discovery has
dire consequences for the FBI agents, as they themselves become the
target of an unearthly and seemingly unstoppable enemy. The agents'
persistence ultimately leads them to the man behind the curtain ---
Scaramuzzi --- whose incredible power and wealth will be increased
one hundredfold if he can convince The Watchers, a shadowy group
that has existed for millennia, that he is indeed the antichrist
for whom they have long waited. Scaramuzzi seems unstoppable,
especially as it becomes clear that Moore is badly damaged on many
levels. The story races to a cataclysmic finish, with some of its
greatest surprises occurring near the end.
Though COMES A HORSEMAN is Liparulo's first novel, his extensive
writing experience, honed by years of crafting film scripts,
articles and short stories, holds him in excellent stead. His
characters, particularly Moore, are unforgettable, and his villains
are everything that bad guys should, and shouldn't, be. This is a
book that you'll lose sleep over --- during and after the
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 28, 2010