When I began reading “The Judging,” I had no idea it was considered by many to be a “Christian Thriller.” I found this out afterwards. For some reason, that description is a bit off-putting. Not because I have any quarrel with Christianity, but because there have been some truly abysmal books released under the “Christian” banner. I read somewhere–it was a blog post or an online op-ed piece, and I’m sorry I don’t remember–asking why Christian Literature, Music, and Films “suck.” (nb: If you Google “Why Does Christian Art Suck,” and you get a number of hits) Anyway, the conclusion, if I recall, was that if you write a novel that labels itself as “Christian,” you automatically remove yourself from competing with fiction-writing writ large. You’re not competing with Stephen King, John Grisham, John Green, et al. You are writing for a small audience with limited choices, and–pardon the cliche–you’re “preaching to the choir.”
A friend who is a devout Christian wrote a reaction on her blog, and she wholeheartedly agreed. She’s a Christian, but she also happens to be an incredibly well-educated book editor. She’s found the quality of many Christian novels she’s sampled to be substandard. Christian films are frequently slipshod production-wise, and unwatchable except for the already-believers.
Dr Mark Corescu is mysterious and handsome, and soon falls in love with Hope Brannen, a free-spirited artist and horse enthusiast. She is enchanted by the doctor, and falls in love with him as well. This would be great, except for one thing: Dr Corescu is actually a vampire.
There’s a twist, though. While he’s killed over 100,000 people through the years, he seeks out truly evil people, and before he kills them, he encourages them to repent for their sins. Some do; some don’t. Either way, he kills them, feeding on their blood.
Moreover, he believes that God is leading him to these people. It may be God, or it may be God’s evil counterpart.
Hope’s best friend is a theology student named Tony Agricola. Tony is leery of Hope’s speedy attraction to Dr Corescu, especially when Hope paints the Doctor as a sort of noble vigilante. At a revival, Tony encounters a stranger–a pastor from another church–who gives Tony a message from The Holy Spirit, telling him a trial awaits him.
Dr Corescu has two minions, if you will: Paul and Reuben. They clash constantly, and one of them nearly betrays them all, and meets a grisly end.
Things start to go wrong for Dr Corescu. He starts hearing the voice of “The Other,” the demonic man who turned him into a monster centuries ago. All too soon, there’s a sleazy reporter on their trail, and an ever-growing trail of dead bodies.
I just flat-out enjoyed this book. It works as a paranormal thriller, and the fact that somebody would fight for a vampire’s salvation is a refreshing change from the typical vampire novels. There are extended flashback sequences showing how Dr. Corescu–then Father Corescu, a Catholic priest–ends up being turned into a monster. To me, these detracted from the momentum and flow of the book. They fill-in back story, but the book’s pace would have been better with a little less of the history, or a more-efficient use thereof.
The ending leaves various characters dissatisfied with their situation, and you can sense that big things will happen in book two of the Corescu Chronicles.
In retrospect, there truly are a number of religious elements and events in “The Judging,” but they are true to the characters. At no point does author Ellen C. Maze bash us over the head with religion like a TV evangelist. What she bashes us over the head with is a taut, mysterious, extremely interesting novel. I look forward to book two.