Death Unmasked is an unusual novel in that the author draws on a range of conventions across the literary spectrum. The book opens with a distinct poetic motif that is carried throughout the story reflecting literary and theatrical influences, including comments on the action that break the book’s theatrical fourth wall to address the reader much as by the chorus in Greek tragedies. Other commentary devices range from stream of conscious reflections by certain characters, including song lyrics and even rap. Paragraphs in some segments of the book are structured in the manner of an epic heroic poem. These literary devices provide a vehicle for the author’s omniscient narrative voice that create an overall effect of political and religious allegory and, occasionally, moments of genre satire.
By integrating a new age paranormal plot convention with conventions of a contemporary crime drama and stylistic devices previously described, the author has given readers a crossover mix genre work of meta-fiction commingling two sharply divergent story lines with the police procedural drama that dominates the book.
The fairy tale reference in the title of this review is the detailed graphic descriptions of extreme violence and gore and villains and victims that recall fairy tale monsters and demons, as well as the fascist pogrom, but also have the allegorical good vs. evil conflicts read and seen in science fiction books and films. As a navigational device, the soul flight and concept of reincarnation facilitate the structural merging of thriller and new age fantasy.
What gives me the impression that the author is indulging the reader, at least this reader, is the prominent use of the word “Blast” by the protagonist in the midst of scenes of chaos, persecution, human suffering, tension, anxiety, and mayhem rather than a current realistic contemporary expletive expression of profanity. Whether intentionally used or unintentionally (author preference or sensitivity), “Blast” communicates its derivation from the tradition of early comic book literature, a word uttered by a superhero. In contrast in certain police investigation scenes, contemporary profanity is expressed.
Occasional trite hyperbolic phrases and passages border on satire (author’s intention?) expressing romantic love and certain characters’ related uncontained emotions. An example, “Her spirit began to soar up on the wings of a dove” sounds like a country and western song lyric, but coincides with characteristics of epic poetic romance. Sean commenting on himself being “her knight in shining armor.” The book has several such passages and observations. Over-the-top phrases describing the sex act between Sean and Laura read like romance novel satire.
Occasionally, scenes and character interactions either deliberately or intended clash with gritty realistic law enforcement and medical procedural descriptions. In the interest of stylistic consistency, there are opportunities where scenes and character interaction could be more effective than telling the reader the character’s / author’s political and philosophical perspectives.
The device of a theme poem becomes a mantra for a serial killer and links the paranormal theatrical prop of a coat to a concept of reincarnation.
Believable typical genre characters, film script choreographed action, and scenic details are vividly drawn and the character dialogue snaps, reminiscent of film and television dialogue, which is some of the author’s best writing. His profile describes his career as a police officer. The “Think Tank” seems like it could be the conceptual basis for a television police investigation series, perhaps titled “Houston.”
From a literary perspective, the book asks the reader to work a little at understanding the meta-fictional context that underlies the surface of what is being read, not just acknowledging what is presented on the page at face value.
The author has accomplished an impassioned arduously written result of crafting together various stylistic elements to tell his story that, combined, express an intent to engage the reader on different levels and provide different perspectives of social, spiritual, and humanistic themes in an entertaining way.