Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Review: Crossbearers

Book Review: 'Crossbearers' by Marc Brellen

1 / 5 Stars

‘Crossbearers’ (362 pp) was published by Leisure Books in 1988; the cover artist is uncredited. The novel’s copyright is held by Bruce Freshman, so the name ‘Marc Brellen’ likely is a pseudonym.

‘Crossbearers’ is physically and creatively deceptive. Physically deceptive in the sense that the cover at first appears to be a stepback cover with a die-cut keyhole; it fact, it isn’t. And the book is creatively deceptive in that while it appears to be a horror or suspense novel, in fact, it’s a tedious police procedural.

The novel is set in New York City in the late 80s. In the opening chapter, a high-ranking mobster is killed while attending a street fair. NYPD detective Barry Martin is assigned to the case. In his early 30s, Barry is the quintessential New York cop: cynical, skeptical, loathing the bureaucracy, but also loyal to his partners and unwilling to cut corners in the pursuit of justice.

Barry’s friend, Paul Tobin, is a priest at the parish that sponsored the street fair; he assists Barry in his investigation, which increasingly centers on the fact that a suspect wore a distinctive white cross around his neck. The advent of additional murders leads Barry and Paul to believe that a cult of crazed killers is loose in New York City………with a peculiar affinity for murdering individuals who are themselves criminals.

Barry Martin discovers that the actions of the cultists may be aided and abetted by senior clergy in the Catholic church……and perhaps by allies within the police department itself. But even as Martin acts to stop the depredations of the so-called ‘Crossbearers’, he himself has been targeted for elimination…………..

‘Crossbearers’ is a real dud. It was a struggle to finish.

Author Brellen simply isn’t up to the task; the novel reads like a first draft, with too many paragraphs suffering from difficulties with proper syntax:

While Doug and Roger gleefully watched a cartoon show on television, Joe and Carol plotted the kidnapping for Thursday night. The problem was how to bring the three victims together. Joe, impersonating a fellow officer, would telephone Jennifer Tobin to say that Barry had left a message to have her call Paul and Mary and meet them at his apartment at the proposed time, although the officer did not know for what purpose. Simple yet effective. And tomorrow was Thursday.

The novel relies heavily on dialogue passages, most of which are what reviewers call ‘wooden’. The narrative’s pacing is clumsy: romantic interactions between Barry Martin and Paul Tobin’s blind sister Jenny are related in numbing detail, while major events are disclosed within the span of a few short, often perfunctory sentences.

The book’s latter chapters increasingly rely on ever more contrived plot developments, deflating the final confrontation between Barry Martin and the Crossbearers. A closing chapter designed to expound on the nature of the conspiracy behind the actions of the cult serves only makes the plot seem even more confusing and poorly constructed.

Summing up, Leisure Books published its share of bad novels. This is one of them.......... 

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