What if there was a worldwide network of people who dedicated themselves to watching for the coming of the Antichrist? What if they held immense power and wealth in trust for him, waiting to turn it over when the time was right? What if one man decided he wanted to be the man, the Antichrist, and inherit all that waited? What would happen then?
In his debut novel Comes A Horseman, Robert Liparulo explores this very concept. The Watchers have been waiting for the Antichrist for forty generations. Now, they think they’ve found their man in Lucco Scaramuzzi. On the other side of the world, FBI Special Agents Brady Moore and Alicia Wagner are on the trail of a serial killer who leaves all his victims beheaded. But just when they think they’ve got the case almost ironed out, strange new evidence comes to light and they, themselves, become the killer’s next targets. Is there a connection between the gruesome murders and the ancient secret society of Watchers? Who will die next? And why are Brady and Alicia suddenly on the top of the killer’s hit list?
In some areas, Comes A Horseman shines as a novel. Liparulo’s writing style is flawlessly “invisible;” it serves merely as the author’s tool for communicating his story to the reader, and never becomes a barrier between reader and story. The dialogue is lifelike and each character has a recognizable and distinct voice on the page. The plot—the race between the coming Antichrist and those who wish to stop him—is fresh and well handled. But not everything is that well handled.
Liparulo’s characters, while definitely individuals, bear a strong resemblance to basic stereotypes. Alicia comes off as the standard feisty female law officer: she’s stubborn, opinionated, fiery, and wants to beat the guys at their own game. Her partner Brady shows a bit more depth beyond the stoic male stereotype as he grieves the death of his wife Karen. Lucco Scaramuzzi is one of the more diabolical villains I’ve run across in fiction, brilliant and evil, but his completely evil nature makes him almost predictable and a little bit boring. Scaramuzzi’s hit man Olaf is actually the most intriguing and engaging character in the book; he is a realistically conflicted individual with reasonable motives for what he does. He has his own code of honor drawn from a devout, if misplaced, faith. Unfortunately, Liparulo leaves his background a mystery and only gives tantalizing little hints.
All that said, however, Comes A Horseman has plenty of elements readers need to be forewarned about. Its body count numbers in at least the teens. Several murders and fights are described in graphic and stomach-churning detail. Characters survive potentially fatal attacks without so much as a trip to the emergency room. The pacing lags in the beginning—it takes fully half the book for the story to get rolling—and then it speeds up to something just short of breakneck before the rather abrupt and unresolved ending. There are several plot threads left wafting in the wind and nagging at the reader’s mind: What ever happened to the Watchers? And was there any truth to the rumor about the Norse village?
The biggest drawback, though, is the fact that Comes A Horseman never really feels like the Christian fiction it’s supposed to be. Sure, there is no sex and swearing is only implied. But in the first two-thirds of the book, God is only mentioned a few times. Even when stronger biblical elements are introduced with Antichrist prophecies, they remain disappointingly weak, just strong enough to move the plot along. Yet, the Christian references are too obvious for it to be marketed to a secular audience.
In general, Robert Liparulo’s Comes A Horseman is an acceptable book. It does not live up to its cover hype of “an intense thrill ride that will keep your nerves frayed and your lights on,” but it is intelligent and inventive. It’s overly graphic, the characters are a bit flat, and there’s a disappointing lack of Christian elements, but the fascinating concept is handled with remarkable ability and skill for a debut novel. As light entertainment, Comes A Horseman succeeds. But beyond that, the only horseman in sight will be the one who carries modestly successful books off into eventual oblivion. – Rachel Niehaus, Christian Book Previews.com
The ancients saw Death as a blazing figure on horseback, swift and merciless. Those facing the black chasm often mistook their pounding hearts for the beating of hooves.
Now, two FBI agents pursuing a killer from a centuries-old cult realize they have become his prey.