(4.5 / 5)
Earl Marcus grew up in a fringe Pentecostal church run by his daddy in the fingers of the North Georgia mountains. Daddy was a snake handler and forced the young Earl to be one too. Except Earl got snake bit and nearly died and, for five days his daddy left him where he lay, to live or to die, according to God’s plan. Earl rejected God that day, and Daddy, and he walked away from both to live his adult life filled with beer and bourbon. Flawed and wounded, Earl spends his days investigating petty crimes as a detective.
Thirty years later Earl gets a letter. His Daddy is missing though that can’t be possible because Daddy died a few months before. Earl decides it’s a scam and will leave it be, but he receives another letter that his granny, the only person who ever loved him, is dying, and he has to go home. Earl travels home to Georgia and realizes that he needs to know the truth. Is Daddy dead or alive?
The book’s initial setting feels like a hidden character, moody and dark, and evocative with inherent conflict. The tone of the chapters focused on Earl’s early life are filled with arcane religious images which are eerily compelling, believable, but frighteningly so, while the present day chapters seem stilted and forced just as Earl is stilted and forced as he moves through the dichotomy of his life’s past and present. These two sides wrestle against each, steadily increasing in tension and intrigue until Earl reaches the top of the mountain, though not of his own accord.
(5 / 5)
“Religion is the smallpox of the mind, and I am its Jonas Salk,” states the evil mastermind who is behind a wave of global terrorist attacks in Mind Virus. The villain (whose name shall not be revealed here so as not to spoil some of the fun) believes the optimum way to eradicate this virus of the mind is to kill the infected hosts – otherwise known as people of faith. Enter religious studies teacher and Army veteran, Robin Fox, whose job it unwittingly becomes to stop these international attacks and find the person responsible. His task becomes all the more personal when colleague and friend (or more?) Emily Paxton is kidnapped and held as leverage to get Fox to stop interfering in the terrorist’s plans.
It is no wonder Charles Kowalski won RMFW’s Colorado Gold Award for Mind Virus. It is a thoroughly-researched, thoughtful novel regarding the nature of belief, and how what we believe governs how we treat each other, and in turn, how the way we are treated instructs what we come to believe. Don’t let words like “thoroughly-researched” and “thoughtful” fool you – Mind Virus is also well plotted, nicely paced, and packed with action. To wit, Professor Fox survives several attempts on his life, saves the Royal Family from a terrorist attack, and makes it from D.C., to Israel, to London, and back during the Passover and Easter holidays. Not bad for a week’s work.
In Mind Virus, Kowalski skillfully tackles some of the largest issues of our time – namely religion and terrorism and their respective roles in shaping who we are as a global people. And who we are choosing to become as we move forward. He adroitly weaves together Bible verses, deadly nerve agents, and the imminent murder of thousands of innocent people to create a brilliant, riveting read. Hopefully, we will see much more from Charles Kowalski in the years to come.