Sunday, December 21, 2008

When CSI Meets Supernatural

the book I won in one of Lisa's give-away contests


This is what I found in our mailbox last weekend --- the book Lisa of Lisas’s chaos sent me! Since there’s nothing to do outside since it was really cold and the ground was frozen(I cannot do gardening), I spent my Saturday and Sunday reading The Mephisto Club. Thank you, Lisa, for making a bleak weekend enjoyable.

I find this novel by Tess Gerritsen a combination of American TV series CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), Millennium and Supernatural with a dash of Da Vinci Code. I used these shows and book as comparisons because many would be familiar with them, especially those in the United States. It’s like CSI for there’s Jane, a Boston police detective and Maura, a pathologist as two of the main characters. Well, Jane and Maura aren’t part of the crime scene unit per se but you get the feeling of watching an episode of this TV series as you read the novel, especially when there are describing the results of autopsies and other medical findings. The two women in the story investigate a series of murder which is quite particular for its gruesomeness and clues of strange symbols and Latin phrases left behind on the crime scenes. Here is the similarity with Supernatural for it seems that they are dealing with satanic rituals or even with a demon raised from hell by believers of the dark force.

Jane and Maura are helped by an eccentric group (The Mephisto Foundation) monitoring demons’ or more specifically The Watchers’ (children of fallen angels and mortals) activities on earth. The Mephisto club (both the book and the group) sites the Books of Enoch and Jubilees in their studies and researches, works considered non-canonical by the Catholic Church. I find this a parallel to the Da Vinci Code’s reference to other non-canonical books like the Gospels of Mary Magdalene and Philip. The Mephisto group, combines science and religion in their “mission” to prevent evil from spreading. In Millennium, there’s also a group of men and women with the same dedication and methods, however their goal is to read the signs of the times for the Second Coming.


I’m not saying that The Mephisto Club is a sort of spin-off or collage of these TV series and novel. I just think that by sighting them, it would help give you an idea of the “atmosphere” of the story as you go from one page to another. Reading it is like watching someone walk on a tight rope --- you are half-afraid he might fall and half-excited to see if he can make it to the end. You keep your eyes on him because you don’t want to miss a thing and yet you dread watching him take one step after another. Your heart is suspended in mid-air until the tight-rope walker reaches the end of the line. And then you can breathe a sigh of great relief.

The narrative includes some entries from the villain’s diary --- an effective way of drawing the reader closer to the story and gets him into the head of the killer. One gets to see things from his perspective and a glimpse of the antagonist’s character. In excerpts of the journal, adding the phase of the moon as part of the “date” gives it a more sinister atmosphere, like some sort of mystical countdown before your worst nightmares come to life. And what really happened that summer between Dominic Saul (the villain) and his haunted and hunted cousin Lily is quite unexpected (well, at least for me). I only thought of it as a remote possibility. I assumed Lily is running away from his cousin for she found out who he was – a “demon” in flesh and blood. But it was more than that. Well, I’m not going to ruin the story for those who intend to read the novel so I won’t go further discussing this unexpected twist.


My favorite character in the story is Anthony Sansone, the wealthy, educated and suave leader of the Mephisto Club. His mysterious character, antecedents and his strange habits make him a likely candidate for the villain. I like the way his character is developed, the subtle innuendos that he might not be what he appears to be, the feeling of ambiguity about who he really is. I feel like I have to be on my toes and on my guard when you I’m trying to figure him out. It is only in the end that I’m convinced he is one of the good guys.

Since this is the first Jane Rizzoli-Maura Isles novel of Gerritsen I’ve read, it would have been nice if the author have written something about Warren Hoyt (Jane’s worst nightmare so far) and Amalthea Lanks (a dark “stain” in Maura’s life). It doesn’t have to be long as I’ve found out that two of Gerritsen’s previous novels are about these people. It’s just that it would make first-time readers like me get a glimpse of why Jane gets so disturbed with the mention of Hoyt’s name or Maura’s effort to disengage herself from any perceived association with Amalthea. Yes, scars on Jane’s palm left by Hoyt and his continual fantasy of her are mentioned; and that the killer Amalthea as Maura’s biological mother is referred to in the novel. But I find that it did not really show the strong hold of these killers over the two protagonists. Maybe a nightmare or a short flashback of a scene on how the villains left a scar on the two women’s psyche would establish more the connection and feelings they have for the killers. In the novel, the tension appeared “flat”, making it difficult to relate to their animosity towards Hoyt, Amalthea and Joyce O’Donnell, a psychologist who defends in court “criminally insane” people like the two murderers I just cited.


But that’s just my view. And in any case, what I just pointed out does not change the fact that the story is as the clichĂ© goes “a page turner.” Especially when Dominic’s entries in his diary becomes “darker and darker” as that unfortunate summer progresses and The Mephisto Club members are being murdered one by one by an unknown killer.

And speaking of the killer, I just have one nagging thought about Dominic. How come he became “The Chosen One” of The Watchers according to his mother Edwina Felway? There’s no mention about the particular circumstances of his birth or his upbringing that would explain this idea of being the “leader” of these evil doers on earth. It would have given a deeper understanding of Dominic’s dark character. Well, of course, he’s already evil by the fact that he killed many people. But I would like to know if he was really evil incarnate or was it his upbringing that made him evil. Maybe, since the story involves the “supernatural”, it would add a more frightening atmosphere if something about him being born under some kind of astrological sign or event was said, something like in the film The End of Days. And this fact would be revealed in his diary at the end of the story because Lily did not really burn it. Or by some mysterious way this part survived from the fire --- which would be parallel to Dominic surviving being hit by a shovel twice and escaping from a locked car that is pushed into a quarry filled with water by his cousin.

I don’t mind having some loose ends in a story. After all, it would provide a good jumping point for a prequel or a sequel. But filling this “void” in Dominic’s character would make the story more cohesive, so that the lengths mother and son went through to kill Lily and the Mephisto Club would have be more pertinent and not just because they are born evil. The revelation doesn’t have to be long, as I’ve said, just another entry in Dominic’s diary which would be the starting point of a prequel novel.


Well, maybe I just want everything to have a reason. Maybe in Dominic’s case, he’s just evil. Period. No story or explanation can shed light to his dark character (excuse the pun). But whatever my opinion is on this matter is, the novel is really worth reading. The twist and turns of the story come as a surprise for the reader. And with the characters and events presented, I’m now thinking of a prequel- sequel like Lily’s life before and after being a part of The Mephisto Club, or that of Anthony Sansone’s, or Dominics’ before he was killed (and who know, maybe he has a son somewhere).

Whew! This is one long post! If you're still with me up to this point, I really appreciate your effort *smile of gratitude.* I don't mean this to be a book review, I just want to express some of my thoughts about it. Think of this entry as my way of thanking Lisa for this very nice gift. And maybe at the back of my mind, I’m trying to make up for not updating my blog for almost a week *smile*.

Well, today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the northern hemipshere. Perhaps, the long dark hours seeped into my subconscious, compelling me to burn the midnight oil. Who knows? *winks*

(all photos except the book are taken at Reims Cathedral in Marne, France)

4 comments:

utp said...

The Mephisto club sounds interesting....how do I get an e-copy? PDF?

lareine said...

UTP, i'm sorry but i have no idea... although when i "google" it, there are some digital libraries that have it in PDF format but i think you have to sign up or something like that...

by the way, thank you for taking the time to read this post (it's quite long)... i really appreciate it... i owe you a visit... and i'll do that as soon as possible... have a wonderful holidays!

lisaschaos said...

I think I will really enjoy it! I have not yet read it but will be shortly and I have to admit I did not read all you wrote so not too much was given away but you had me at CSI/Millenium/DaVinci. . .Cool!

lareine said...

to lisaschaos: it's ok not to read this whole post as i might have written some "spoilers"... and i don't want to "ruin" the book for you:)... it's a great read and i hope you enjoy it as much as i did!

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