If you want a clue as to how incredibly superb RAGE AGAINST THE DYING is, just read the first sentence. It’s not a false teaser, either. That introduction of just a few words promises a lot and delivers much more.
Becky Masterman is an acquisitions editor for a publisher of science texts, with an emphasis on forensics. RAGE AGAINST THE DYING does focus a bit on crime scene forensics, but not overly so. Rather, the focal point of this exquisitely terrifying debut novel is a former FBI agent named Brigid Quinn, who was tasked with hunting sexual predators. Quinn may be out of the FBI, but the FBI isn’t out of her --- not by a long shot. Try as she might to leave the past behind, it is with her during her every waking moment and most of her sleeping ones as well. This notwithstanding that she is married to Dr. Carlo DiForenza, a former college instructor (“Perfessor” as she calls him) and retired priest who knows nothing at all about her past.
"If you want a clue as to how incredibly superb RAGE AGAINST THE DYING is, just read the first sentence. It’s not a false teaser, either. That introduction of just a few words promises a lot and delivers much more."
Permit me a diversion here: the relationship between Quinn and DiForenza is one of the more interesting and complex ones that you are likely to encounter in genre fiction. Both have left their chosen professions behind, for very different reasons, and for precisely the reasons that arguably each should have remained ensconced within them to begin with. Quinn left the FBI in part because she had beheld so much evil in humanity; DiForenza left the priesthood because he saw the good in people and felt that the Church failed to acknowledge it. They bring these separate viewpoints to their relationship, so that you know something is going to give, sooner or later. And something does, in different ways and on different occasions, during the course of this fast-moving story.
As RAGE AGAINST THE DYING begins, Quinn finds herself confronted with the information that her biggest --- and unsolved --- case has been cleared by the confession of a truck driver named Floyd Lynch. It would be easy to fill the bill with Lynch, a waste of skin whose happy admissions to a host of sins are alone worth the price of admission to the book. Given that the case resulted in the disappearance of Quinn’s protégé, Quinn would be just as happy to see the matter brought to rest. And yet, something is off. Quinn can’t quite get her head around a serious omission in Lynch’s confession and account. The troubled agent assigned to the case is unsure as well, and unofficially teams with Quinn to conduct an off-the-cuff and unsanctioned investigation, even as the understandable rush to judgment rolls downhill.
Quinn, of advanced years but possessed of a still-sharp skill set, knows precisely which rules to break, and break them she does with the aplomb of someone with little to lose. However, no sooner does she start kicking over rocks --- literally --- than someone begins pursuing her with extremely deadly intent. It is obviously the real killer, who is more adept than ever at hiding his identity. Obsessed with seeing that justice is truly done, Quinn risks losing not only what she holds dear, but also her own life, as she puts herself in the sadistic killer’s target sites, for good or ill.
This, my friends, is a good one. Quinn is not the world’s most lovable protagonist, but if your tastes run toward the mature and feisty (to the point of being a pain in the posterior), you will love her. And even if you don’t, you cannot help but cheer for a hero of some years who indeed will rage against the dying. And don’t forget Carlo, who, if instinct serves, has some pretty significant secrets of his own that hopefully will be revealed down the road.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 15, 2013