Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson
Emotions run at different levels depending on events. Normally, when we reach the end of something satisfactory or better, we savour the moment, looking back at the pleasure it has given us. So here I am. I have just finished Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson (Gauntlet Press, 2010). This completes the YA Secret History trilogy, starting with Secret Histories and followed by Secret Circles. Yet the best I can manage is a more dispassionate admiration that we have filled in so many of the backstory elements needed to appreciate the whole of the Repairman Jack cycle.
I suppose, in part, I am less involved because this is written for younger readers. It therefore lacks some of the textual density that can offer a better view of events. Although it does show Jack continuing to develop his interest in fixes, it’s a rather more stripped-down narrative. Nevertheless, it nicely links in with the more supernatural tone associated with the Barrens, and gives us a better look at Mrs Clevenger, her dog and Weird Walt, back in compassionate action again. We also finally get to meet Mr Foster who, as those of you who have read the continuing adult series will know, is rather important.
I was pleased with the exploration of the circumstances surrounding Jack’s birth and it was interesting to learn that, according to the test administered by Mr. Drexler, Jack and his father both have blue overtones. Obviously, the long-term breeding programme works to transmit the right genes. It was intriguing that this is probably responsible for rendering Jack “invisible” to Saree, the Piney children and you know who. It also confirms why the q’qr would keep him safe in Secret Circles.
Anyway, this is a slightly more traditional Jack fix. Weezy is attacked by the local school’s quarterback hero so he must be taken down a peg or two. The primary point of interest is not so much the way in which this is achieved — truth be told, in round three, this is somewhat overwritten — but in the continuing slow evolution of a moral framework for Jack’s activities. Prompted by one of his teachers, Jack extends the debate of what he might consider it legitimate to do in defence of himself or others, continuing the “good work” begun in Secret Circles. Incidentally, this prompts the right response to the temptation offered by Abe Grossman, the man who later becomes Jack’s quartermaster.
Structurally, I feel the trilogy would have built to a better climax if we had reversed the pyramid and the quarterback. Although, in saying this, we still have the big unknown of what’s going to happen in The Dark at the End — the book that finally closes the narrative arc and links us back into Nightworld. So it may be necessary for Jack to make better contact with the Pineys and see the lumens as the concluding elements in the broader narrative pattern. However it does all fit together, Secret Vengeance is slightly more downbeat in tone with Jack inevitably feeling some guilt in contributing to the death. Perhaps, given the darker feel to the adult Jack, that’s not a bad way to say goodbye to him as a teen.
For all my reviews of books by F Paul Wilson, see: