Review: Fraterfamilias by Peter Ferrer
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
470 pages. eBook
Fraterfamilias by Peter Ferrer is a detective story steeped in the supernatural while revealing a satisfyingly natural and humanist flavor. Its style of telling may not appeal to those who require action in scads but it will easily grip fans of the occult, particularly those interested in ancient shamanism.
The story begins with a “death by cop” suicide at JFK International Airport and follows the investigation through a journal-style telling, mostly through the brother of the thought-to-be deceased. “Thought to be deceased” - therein is the process of this book; the unraveling of the why's and how’s of the undead. It travels past shamanism, witchcraft, the Russian Mafia, Knights Templar and multiple lives that span centuries and possibly millenia – with the reader happily in tow.
The characters are shown in a generally sympathetic way, although there are a few stock actors. The recently-divorced substance-reliant and financially-strapped cop on the take for example, though even he has a compensating twist – and his hugely gay but sympathetic black transvestite friend is not it. There are not many main players in the work, a dozen or so, and it was not difficult to follow who was doing what to whom, nor, ultimately, why. The other characters, even the expected ones, were introduced and enfleshed such that they did not overstay their welcome – in fact, there is certainly room for sequel expansion.
The writing style is appropriate to the genre, and certain passages are decidedly poetic. As most of the story is told in the second person, it does have a tendency to want for action, but there’s plenty going on to keep eyes on the page. Bribery, beatings, multiple murders, ghostly informants, drugs, powerful shadow enemies, and flashbacks bridging thousands of years all contribute to the appeal. Most of this is told in an “after-the-fact” fashion, however, so the interest is more in the unfolding from a single perspective, and with the reactions of the characters to it, rather than the immediate goings-on.
Detective stories seem to have more than their fair share of blunt one-liners and shtick, and Fraterfamilias is no exception. In this regard it’s more a function of the genre, rather than any specific fault of the authors and the effect, given it is expected, isn’t entirely unpleasant. There were a few particularly exceptional lines, “This is New York, they always have pie”, comes gladly (and somewhat inexplicably) to mind.
Lower points are to be found in a few (five recorded) lapses in editing; duplicate lines, repeated and misplaced words. Nothing fatal, but it doesn’t serve the task of keeping the reader in a happy state of unreal submersion, especially when the subject is the unreal. And while one or possibly two references to Indiana Jones might be appropriate, at the fifth, one wonders if the readers are supposed to be stupid.
These few and minor lapses in vigilance or judgment do not detract from the appeal of this book, though, as they are far outweighed by a deftly arranged story with an almost loving touch. Those who appreciate a good occult-laced detective story with roots in ancient shamanism will be entirely entranced by Ferrer’s Fraterfamilia.
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