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Dark Spectre by Michael Dibdin

Dark Spectre (original 1995; edition 2009)

by Michael Dibdin

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Title:Dark Spectre
Authors:Michael Dibdin
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:2012, Michael Dibdin

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Dark Spectre by Michael Dibdin (1995)




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Dibdin is one of the more literate mysery writers; you know, the ones that don’t describe characters by the brand name clothes they wear. His serial protagonist is Aurelio Zen, an Italian policeman, and many of those novels have been set in Italy. This one has no police main character as such and switches the perspectives between Phil, the father of a young boy who has been abducted, Kristine,a police detective in Seattle who notices some bizarre similarities in seemingly random homicides throughout the United States, and the members of a strange religious cult run by Sam, an old college pal of Phil’s.

It turns out that Sam has convinced his followers (and himself), that he is Los, the character in William Blake, and that he has the proven way to salvation, but the initiates have to prove themselves by killing “specters.” His rationale is that since God is love and is all-powerful, it is oxymoronic that he would permit his children to suffer. Therefore, the pain and suffering that do happen are being inflicted not on real people, real humans, but specters. “You can beat people, shoot them, burn them, torture them, anything at all! Because God allows you to do it, the victim was never really there in the first place. An emanation, a mere shadow. ‘Why wilt thou give to her a body whose life is but a shade?,’ Jerusalem, chapter twelve, verse one.”

So his followers prove themselves by killing the occupants of houses that are chosen using a bizarre system of random number generators. Of course, this makes connecting the victims to one another an impossible task for the police. Phil is lured to Sam’s island near Seattle, ostensibly as one of the chosen few, since Phil had been something of a Blake afficionado -- if that’s possible. He becomes the catalyst that begins the unraveling of Sam’s psychotic plans. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
In my opinion this is a weak story. After 3 chapters it was almost clear where the plot is leading. In addition to all the different locations of the violences and the struggling of the multitude of police forces the leading of the story wasn't getting better. The idea of writing a story about the danger of sects, the strict obedience of the members, the morbid thinking of these leaders is a great effort but in this case badly realised. ( )
  Ameise1 | Nov 17, 2012 |
Dark Specter begins with the murder of a family in Seattle. But it soon becomes apparent to the detective in charge that the murder is only one is a series of murders that have occurred all over the United States. All seem random, all seem motiveless, but that is definitely not the case. The murder investigations parallel the story of a man who, in his college years, belonged to a group of druggie friends who would spend hours philosophizing about the world, politics, God, etc etc. Now that man is an adult, with wife and child, and his story sadly becomes intertwined with the plotline of the random murders, as he becomes involved with members of a strange cult who make their home and base of operations on a small island off the coast of Washington.

I have really enjoyed many of Dibdin's other books, but this one just didn't thrill me. The overall plot was good, and the theme was one worth exploring: a civilization in which people have become so alienated that they're willing to listen to the ravings of a madman that they take as gospel truth, and who will do anything in the name of God -- or at least their understanding of the concept as laid down by the person who styles himself as God. This is a story that has become all too common and I'm always intrigued as to what it is that brings people to this point. But in Dark Specter, the story just didn't deliver. There were suspenseful parts, but at some point, a key part of the story became very obvious and I knew exactly what was going to happen -- and I was basically at the midpoint of the story. Arrghh. So for me, it was just a matter of waiting for the story to play out.

I'd recommend it, but with reservations, to people interested in cults or to readers of suspense. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Sep 8, 2009 |
At first you would think that the events in the book are all disjointed and then they start to link together and make sense but it's not a good type of sense. Interesting thriller ( )
  wyvernfriend | May 4, 2006 |
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And Tharmas called to the Dark Spectre who upon the shores with dislocated limbs had falln. the Spectre rose in pain a shadow blue obscure & dismal,
(Wiliam Blake: Vala, or the Four Zoas)
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For Kathrine, who helped
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Jamie shot Ronnie Ho four times.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571177530, Paperback)

A series of apparently random and motiveless murders occurs in towns and cities all over America. There is nothing to connect them with an obscure religious sect operating from a Pacific island, and dedicated to the scriptural study of William Blake's poetry and the initiation of a chosen few.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In Washington State, Phil's family is slain and police link the crime to a series of murders by a satanic cult killer. But who is this man? As police race to catch the killer before he strikes again, Phil, who narrates much of the story, pursues a friendship with Sam, a Vietnam War veteran, with whom he shared drugs in their hippie youth. Phil is about to get a shock.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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