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In Field of Blood, the first installment in the Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy, Mr. Wilson weaves an intricate tapestry comprising two fundamentally strange bedfellows: supernatural terror and Christian spiritual persuasion. I couldn’t avoid the image of Anne Rice straddling the line of salvation—one foot sunk in the mire of the inglorious world of vampires and werewolves, and the other planted on the Rock that rescued her from that world. Yet Mr. Wilson skillfully and thoughtfully reconciles these two genres in a work that both entertains and provokes thought.
Picture the proverbial dark cloud with the silver lining.
The dark cloud is the ethereal world of the Collectors: fallen angels who are bent on ushering in Satan’s alternative to the Final Judgment. The Collectors have no corporeal form of their own, but are constrained to indwell ‘host’ bodies to execute their agenda. Their hope of release from this Separation from the physical lies in the field that absorbed Judas Iscariot’s self-shed blood after his betrayal of Christ. After an ancient tomb in the field is breached by an Israeli construction crew, the Collectors seize the opportunity to invade the crypts and inhabit the ancient bones of those buried beneath the cursed soil. They must sustain these host bodies by ingesting human blood, feeding continually in a vain attempt (Okay, yes, I was tempted to say ‘vein attempt’.) to treat their insatiable thirst. The Collectors exploit the human weaknesses of their victims—pride, self-righteous piety, lust, illusions of self-sufficiency; you know, the stuff you and I fortunately have no problems with—to gain advantage over their victims. All the while they seek to destroy the ‘silver lining’.
The silver lining is the nestarim, thirty-six immortal souls who were raised from the grave at the moment of Christ’s crucifixion, per Matthew’s Gospel. And, much like a full silver lining that traces the entire circumference of the cloud, the nestarim contain the Collectors, engaging in perpetual physical and spiritual battle until God executes His Final Judgment. But the nestarim, too, have their vulnerabilities, and the loss of just one of them will collapse the whole community. Then the lining will fade to nothing. And the dark cloud will become suddenly unrestrained.
Gina, a young girl we first meet in Romania toward the end of Nicolae Caucescu’s regime, is unknowingly one of the nestarim. As such, she becomes the target of a clan of Collectors who have traced her whereabouts from Israel. Inhibited by her mother Nikki, and aided by her mentor Cal—both of whom know of Gina’s heritage—the young Gina suffers from the burden she carries into adulthood without knowing why. Not until an unimaginable tragedy strikes does she understand, accept and assume her role in the battle against Satan’s minions.
Mr. Wilson’s research is impeccable. He displays a remarkable ability for subtlety and surprise in tying Old Testament events (such as the story of Jael and Sisera in the book of Judges), New Testament occurrences (such as the Gospel account of Christ banishing the demons into the herd of swine) and recent events in Israel, the Balkan region, and the United States together for the backdrop of his story.
A caution, however. You won’t be gathering the children around for bedtime stories from these pages. Field of Blood is masterfully contrived, its theme acutely poignant, but it is not light reading. The cloud is very dark, and the silver lining often seems woefully inadequate for its task of containment. Prepare to be frustrated, dismayed, perhaps even a bit annoyed. But those, I believe, are among Mr. Wilson’s intended destinations for his readers, and he delivers us there in style.
As a point of critique, the story flows, but there are moments when the dream hits a speed bump laid by thickness in the prose. That, however, should not dissuade you from reading Field of Blood, if your interests lead you into the darker corners of the supernatural genre. It’s a fascinating tale. I look forward to the next part of the trilogy, due out next summer.