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Book Review - 'Ruler of Demons' by Scott A. Lerner

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THE DA VINCI CODE with a holiday twist is the perfect gift to give the mystery lover this holiday season. Scott A. Lerner continues his Sam Roberts' series of paranormal whodunits with this Christmastime caper. The hunt is on as he tries to track down a ritualistic killer who's been conducting a string of gruesome murders across the globe. Nuns are being slaughtered on sacred ground in an attempt to bring about the apocalypse on the winter solstice. The individual responsible allegedly obtained a top secret manuscript from the Vatican on how to perform unspeakable acts of evil in order to force the second coming of the Messiah. There's just one problem - it might actually be a how-to manual for summoning the devil. This recipe for human sacrifice is all about taking the holy and making it profane.

Lerner keeps the pace brisk and the action non-stop as Sam and his sidekick, Bob, travel the world from Chicago to Jerusalem to Paris in the hope of thwarting the sadistic plot after a severed tongue ends up in Sam's kitchen. Realizing the extent of the danger they're in, Sam begins to question the people they're working for - a hotshot yet highly secretive attorney, an influential cardinal and an ex-Marine who's now an ordained priest. They're doling out a great deal money for Sam to conduct his investigation, but are they really setting him up to take the fall?

The changes in location help place the novel in the religious and historical framework that Lerner constructs. An archeological site in Israel grounds the story in antiquity. A French farmhouse built on the remnants of a Catholic church adds a spiritual element. The rooftop of a Chicago skyscraper brings things back to the modern threat that evil poses complete with an elaborately constructed altar. All of these settings combine with a protagonist who is more of a suburban atheist than anything else. Sam's belief in logic and living in the now directly opposes the nature of the crimes he's trying to solve, giving the book an added sense of tension as the reader is forced to look at things from the outside in.

Christmas may be threatened, and even though Sam Roberts might believe more in Santa Claus than in God, he's going to do everything in his power to keep the forces of evil at bay - or at least for another sixty-six years until they can be summoned again. If the end of the world won't stop Americans from indulging in the holiday season, nothing will. So let the sleuthing festivities commence and check the suspense aficionado off your list by purchasing this gem of a thriller. RULER OF DEMONS might not be bursting with peace on earth and yuletide cheer, but for the murder mystery fan who gravitates toward the macabre, it makes the perfect stocking stuffer.

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