Creating a world that would be filled with illusions and the ability to manipulate powerful people was the goal or vision of one man. Twenty years ago Oliver Vicks created a situation that would radically change the lives of many as he orchestrated, planned, created and manipulated a young girl named Becky into believing that some day she would be his Queen but only after he killed and annihilated her entire family leaving her alone. But, working in this bar was her life at one point and when the owner’s wife alerted her to fact that his man was dangerous and should not be taken lightly, Becky seemed mesmerized, tantalized and victim his man hypnotic ways. Why would a prominent U.S. Senator be so brainwashed into thinking that this man was God or had the same powers to control the universe, happenings as God? Frank Lamb is on the run and his criminal record is one that if found he would spend the rest of his life in jail for a murder that was really self-defense. But, retrieving and returning what at first seemed like a set of old books for U.S. Senator James Henry Sampson, a job that should have not been dangerous of difficult, he hastily accepts without doing what most would advise due diligence making sure that the job was legitimate and what it entailed. On the run, out of work and in need of money he’s been classified as an international fugitive and the primary casualty is missing his daughter Sadie and losing time not seeing her grow up. But, he can’t do it himself and his former partner Courtney Lavagnino, team up once again and take on more than just finding the books, returning them to the Senator but learn this could something so dangerous, so heinous they might not survive as the books were written in prison by Oliver Vicks who proclaims to be a prophet whose legacy at this point is torturing victims and leaving their dismembered and unidentifiable bodies behind. Oliver Vicks according to the Senator is still in prison and he receives messages and calls from him but the Senator seems more than must someone who this man teaches about God and his ways but creates situations that will cause the Senator to be duped, unnerved and thinking that he will lose this man who he claims to love and that loves him and others if the books are not returned. Oliver Vicks orchestrated, manipulated and created a plan over 20 years ago and every year in prison and every step of the way he’s been preying cellmates, prison guards and even the warden letting them know he’s untouchable and that only he can control the fights among the inmates and when he decides to leave the prison no one will dare stop him or face his wrath. Oliver Vicks seems to be controlling what happens when they meet the Senator, learn about what he’s done to himself to be worthy of this sick man’s love and trust, is delusional, claims he’s controlled by his dreams and that Vicks has interpreted and realizes that he’s his only hope for salvation. The books were written in prison and the writing is comprised of doodles that are in a leather bound book that he has created using special writing tools in a café that Becky worked in. Each night he came spent hours there and lured her in slowly and methodically until one night he called the police, gave her his warning about being his Queen and then was led off the prison with no fear of what would happen next. Becky was warned but no red flags went off and this man, a serial killer, kills her family and from there on in she is more than hooked and promises her he will reunite with her when released from prison but he escapes.
Receiving instructions from a man named Rico who at first seems to have the books and is holding all the cards, the two private investigators, Frank and Courtney are now pulled into this intricate and diabolical plot to exchange the books for 48 million dollars on behalf of the State Senator. Courtney and Frank agree as Frank was in Europe and running form Interpol and Courtney does not decline the request to work with him again. As Frank and Courtney learn more about the 24 books they uncover something quite frightening. The Senator is weak and brainwashed and his only concern is getting back the books and giving Vicks the money. With his linguistic analyst Mindy who seems to be bent on reading the writings of this man even when the books are in their hands, things go haywire when they are in the barn with the books, Rico disappears, goes out so they can decide whether to give him the books, but first she insists on looking them over which results in losing the books and the money too. The plot becomes more intricate when Frank and Courtney decide to visit the prison that Vicks is supposed to be housed in and learn from the warden he escaped with the help of the guards and the inmates. But, was the warden telling the truth or is Vicks running the prison and he’s too afraid to stop what he is about to create right under his nose.
When Rico is found murdered and hanged in the red house where Vicks houses his work, they also learn that he was once an architect and although quite good not licensed and it was the Senator that told on him and got him fired and this was just part of his revenge.
Making the exchange after a debriefing should have been easy but the exchange goes bad, the money is lost and the Senator seems at a loss and at the mercy of this killer who they later learn has lied to him, took his money, wiped him out and has photos that could make it even worse. As Frank and Courtney learn the origin of who Vicks thinks he is they hear the story of Joseph considering himself a prophet, cast aside by his own family due to jealousies and later enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh only to be made second in command of Egypt when he foretold the future of the country and was correct in his visions.
The most horrific revelation is what they learn about the bindings of the books and what they are made out of. Each of the first 22 books were bound and with something other than paper and normal binding materials. They were bound with the skin of the humans he killed. Rico was number 22 so who will 23 and 24 be? For centuries according to history the practice of making books out of human skin was common and disturbing. Book bound in human skin parchment on which on ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance is not uncommon. People actually collected books bound in human skin they collected books bound in tattooed skin because they made beautiful covers. But, this book will illuminate just what Vicks did to bind his books but also the legality of a binding or legal agreement you might say that was made verbally or in written between the Senator and Vicks to get his books back.
Lies, deceits, betrayals, hate, revenge, murder, brainwashing and a naïve and weak Senator that risks not only his life but that of Frank and Courtney to satisfy the hunger of a sick and deranged cultist who will stop at nothing to get enough skin to create more bindings for his last two created volumes.
Mindy seemed to have more knowledge than the others as she related to both Courtney and Frank about the history of the bindings and how the ancient Egyptians bound their papyrus using human skin. Sophnot is what he wanted to be called interpreted as one who solved riddles but the rabbi from the Chabad reveals something else behind the name: Concealer of Faces which uncovers even more. The man is sinister, the man has many faces as the enter the prison and meet Nathan Heald but just who is this man and why does he reveal that as the warden of the prison he is being held hostage you might say by Oliver Vicks and his minions. Becky Carlson is another interesting and bizarre character as she is no longer the beauty from the start of the story but a strung out, washed out heroin addict who believes in the lies told by this man as we meet the rest in the prison. He’s created a cult that is deadly. Vicks hides behind his many faces concealing who he really is yet thinking he is more powerful than God. But, just who can be trusted and who is in it for the books and the money as the story goes back to the Senator who seems at times almost childlike when he throws tantrums if he does not get his way.
The graphically depicted scenes, the innermost thoughts of both Frank and Courtney allow readers to follow their thinking and understand why each one seems divided in the way they want this case to progress and why one seems more determined to align himself with Mindy but why? Sampson is a pathetic character who at one time might have ruled the Senate but when Vicks relates the meaning of his dreams and he believes his lies his life unravels and there is no where else for him to go but down. Blackmail is the name of one of his games and the poor Senator does not see the light until it’s too late.
The books might be in their possession, the money gone but in the end you won’t believe who lured them into yet another trap as the last scenes in the prison are graphically depicted, the murders and the carnage so real you feel that you are experiencing it as author E.Z. Rinsky describes. The author creates these last scenes making you the reader wonder who will come out alive or will their be more prisoners created loyal to this lunatic they are so believable it is scary to think that people really buy into these cults. The ending is quite open ended and the final outcome or where the books wind up is left to the reader to find out for themselves if and when this author brings back Frank and Courtney to follow the trail once more.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine