Book of the Month, October: Legion

lbwpblatty01I wholeheartedly agree that The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies ever made.  The book ain’t too shabby either.  But, for my money, and in my opinion (not that you asked), William Peter Blatty’s 1983 novel, Legion, a loose sequel, is a better book (the movie adaptation, The Exorcist III, which Blatty wrote and directed himself, is a knock-out, if underrated, film).

Lieutenant William F. Kinderman investigated the death of Burke Dennings in The Exorcist. Along the way he became friends with Jesuit priest Damien Karras. Karras died at the end of the first book and Kinderman then struck up a friendship with Damien’s colleague, Father Dyer. When the lieutenant’s job brings him to a point of spiritual, and mental, crisis, it’s Dyer who provides a light and the hope that the world is not the rotting trash heap the frustrated cop believes it to be.

Kinderman’s belief that the world is evil is supported by the newest homicide case he is assigned to, that of twelve-year-old Thomas Kintry, a boy Kinderman knew from a police youth outreach program. Kintry was crucified on a set of rowing oars and mutilated. It becomes worse when the autopsy findings show the boy was anesthetized with a surgical-grade drug and was conscious throughout the entire ordeal.

Even more disturbing for Kinderman is the fact the boy was mutilated in a way which suggests the work of serial murderer the Gemini Killer. The problem there is that the Gemini Killer has been dead for over a decade. But when more killings occur, including a priest in a confessional, which bear the same MO as the Gemini, Kinderman’s sleuthing leads him down even more dark corridors, literally and figuratively.

The clues prove as baffling as the killings. Fingerprints show that more than one person committed the crimes, and they may have involved patients from a local mental ward. If that were not strange enough, Kinderman believes a catatonic patient at the hostpital called Tommy Sunlight may just be the dead Damien Karras.

William Kinderman is an unconventional hero. He is a man of non sequiturs, obscure knowledge and prone to go off on wild, existential tangents. He is a man who has seen the worst of humanity in his years on the force and it has brought him to the edge he questions what is the point of life. Kinderman is one of the more unique cops in literary history. His monologues may be off-putting to some, as will his jokes, but if you hang in there, he has a point to make.

Legion is not an ordinary sequel, and it’s connections to The Exorcist are really not important. You don’t have to have read the first book, or seen the movie, to jump into this story. It is, by turns, chilling and philosophical. If the first book was a horrific scream, this one is a mysterious whisper.