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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Every so often, a book comes along that blows you away with its uniqueness. For me, Reprobation by Catherine Fearns is one of those books. It’s so different, so intense, and so “heady” for lack of a better word, that I can only say if you decide to read it, you better make sure you have have a large vocabulary, because Fearns certainly has. You might also need to be reasonably well-educated and interested in genetic experimentation. It would also help if you occasionally find yourself wondering about life and death within a religious context and if, indeed, you even believe in God. If all that sounds like you, then go ahead and challenge yourself by reading Reprobation.
You see, Reprobation is a challenge, not just for the reader, but for the protagonist, Sister Helen Hope, a Calvinist nun who believes in God, and Detective Darren Swift who doesn’t. When a man is found crucified on a beach with a strange symbol on his body, in the Liverpool area of England where churches of every denomination abound, thoughts give rise to a Satanic murder. But finding the killer or killers is difficult and when suspicion falls on a religious genetic scientist who cannot be found, the search becomes increasingly complicated, especially when a young woman is found with her abdominal innards removed. Yes, the details are gory.
How Sister Helen Hope is drawn into solving the mystery with the help of Mikko, lead singer of a Norwegian death metal band, is for readers to find out. Far be it for me to spoil your fun. When the mystery is solved, surprises abound, and not just about the identity of the perps, but what happens to Sister Helen’s faith and belief in God along the way. The woman who confidently teaches eschatology (look it up or read the book!) isn’t the same person by the time the story ends. Neither is Mikko nor Detective Darren Swift. What on earth happened in Reprobation?
Readers might need patience to read this novel, which is actually a bit of a psychological thriller. As I said above, the wording is erudite and the concepts are heady. As much as they contribute to understanding the Calvinist view of life and death, the use of lengthy biblical passages by the Deaconess and others slows the pace, as do the very detailed descriptions of the settings. But if this sounds like your kind of read, don’t hesitate to add this to your Thanksgiving bucket list. Why Thanksgiving? You’ll be thankful Reprobation is, after all, only fiction.