Written by Stephen Romano – Horror scribe Stephen Romano makes his crime fiction debut in the sci-fi tinged thriller Resurrection Express. Romano makes the transition with aplomb – and how. The author’s ability to write horrific violence and monstrous evil are on display, and the suspense rarely flags. But Resurrection Express is not merely horror transposed; it is also a compelling mystery that marks an auspicious crime fiction debut.
Romano’s protagonist is Elroy Coffin: hacker extraordinaire, martial arts expert and bandit on the information superhighway. As the novel opens, Coffin is incarcerated – not on account of his thievery, though he well could be – but because powerful Houston crime boss David Hartman wanted his wife, Toni. Coffin was shot in the head before he went to prison, and his memory of Toni is hazy. Elroy believes that both she and his father are dead – until a mysterious visitor comes to see him in prison.
While claiming to merely be a concerned citizen, Elroy’s visitor evinces considerable power by getting him freed from prison. She reveals that Coffin’s father, Ringo Coffin, is still alive. The visitor also tells Elroy that Toni is still alive, though captive to David Hartman. Her daughter is part of Hartman’s human trafficking operation, she tells Coffin.
Elroy and Ringo are reunited by the well-heeled visitor, Jayne Jenison, and she needs them both for a high-stakes heist. Their target is David Hartman, and Elroy is seeking not only mercenary rewards, he is looking for Toni, and he’s looking for revenge.
Elroy Coffin finds neither of these in the heist, but he stumbles on a twisted series of double-crosses that has him running for his life – and nearly losing it more than once. Hartman is heartless and Coffin seeks a reckoning. But Elroy finds out that Hartman is not his greatest adversary, and not even close to the most evil villain that he must face.
Coffin is up against a criminal conspiracy much more vast than he could ever anticipate. Romano blends political conspiracy with gritty crime and techno thriller sci-fi. In shades of William Gibson, Resurrection Express rockets through a vaguely dystopic technological wasteland. But it is not only the technology that ends up wasted. Resurrection Express hits hard; Romano spares neither readers nor his own characters. You’ll hate to see a few characters go, but the author is mostly assured as he propels the plot along.
Resurrection Express does not stint on excitement, though the plot does seem to be briefly spinning the wheels at points. As Elroy’s near-misses and narrow escapes mount, the fisticuffs and pyrotechnics can be entertaining, but a few confrontations seem to exist for their own sake rather than the overarching plot’s. Still, it is a testament to Romano that his protagonist and sometimes brutal prose are compelling enough to keep readers turning the pages.
The final twist is certainly worth the read. The Resurrection Express may take a while to pull into the station, but it is such a thrilling ride that you’ll never find yourself wondering, “Are we there yet?”
CFL Rating: 5 Stars