The Furies, a thriller by Mark Alpert, introduces us to a family like any other, with the exception of a genetic mutation that they've been forced to hide from the world for hundreds of years (available April 22, 2014).
They Walk Among Us!
Nothing is more chilling than hearing those words. Whether they are supernatural, extraterrestrial, or just plain spooky, thinking about a being that’s different from our human selves always feels creepy when everything around you looks normal.
The prologue of Mark Alpert’s The Furies gives us a glimpse of Elizabeth Fury and her family, a family so different that the other people in town are determined to kill them for fear that they’re the ones who’ve brought the recent troubles people were dealing with. It’s 1645, and Elizabeth has escaped with her children, but she can still hear the cries of her husband being tortured.
We move from there to modern-day New York City, where John Rogers sits in a bar nursing a single beer as he thinks about how many ways his life is a mess. A former gang member and military loser, only the faith and grace of a local priest helped him turn his life around. However, turning from the street life to life of service didn’t exactly fill his pockets with gold.
John is in New York to attend a job fair for social workers, but that, too, has been a dead end. Just like Philadelphia before, New York has no opportunities for social workers. When John looks up from the gloom he’s stewing in at the bar, he sees a beautiful woman with a good-looking man on each arm. He is immediately taken with her, but what makes her stay in his mind is a beautiful opening sentence for the chapter 1:
She was smart and sexy and beautiful, but all that didn’t matter. John Rogers fell for her because of what she said about God.
I found this book interesting in the beginning. It was also intriguing to learn about the Furies, what their place was in our world, and their goals for meeting the needs of their people while living amid humans.
I kept comparing their world to the mythical Amazons. The women were the leaders; the men were soldiers and protectors. The biggest problem for the men, however, was what they lacked—the ability to impregnate their women. Like the Furies in the 1600s, the 21st-century Furies are still trying to escape notice and hide in place sight.
Alpert is a verbose writer, and I think he could have said more with less. I also was caught by some of his uneven descriptions. He spends paragraphs describing scenery and machinery, but when it comes to the women, he tends to use blunt words like thin, fat, and chubby, leaving a bad taste for me.
There’s a lot of adventure in the book, as the Furies are on the run, not only from the authorities that would want to study them like laboratory animals, but also from a faction of their own people who have rebelled against the rules and laws of the Furies. It creates some great tension and provides anticipation and suspense to keep the story going, such as this passage from the beginning, when John Rogers and Ariel begin a hazardous journey that will keep them trying to avoid their enemy through the book:
“Blend in? I don’t know about that. You can’t walk, for one thing.”
“I’ll be in a wheelchair. You’ll pretend you’re taking your poor old mother on a day trip to Mackinac Island. Perfectly ordinary.”
He was skeptical but didn’t want to argue anymore. Instead, he focused on the road ahead, which ran straight as an arrow toward the lakeshore. Meanwhile, Ariel opened the makeup kit and started slathering rouge on her face.
After another half hour they approached Mackinaw City. John was amazed to see the calm, blue surface of Lake Huron stretching for miles and miles to the east and north. He’d never visited this part of the country before, never imagined that the Great Lakes could be so huge. In the distance he saw the Mackinac Bridge arching toward the wooded shore of the Upper Peninsula. Squinting, he glimpsed flashing lights at the far end of the bridge. This was the roadblock, obviously. Then he glanced to the right and spotted a smallish, green island about ten miles away. A ferryboat was scudding across the lake about halfway between the island and the docks of Mackinaw City.
“Make a right,” Ariel said. Without lifting her head from her makeup kit, she pointed at a parking lot next to one of the motels on the lakeshore.
“We’re still pretty far from the docks.”
“If the troopers are at the fairy, they’ll be looking for an old Kia. So we should park as far away as possible.”
John made the right turn and parked at the far end of the lot. He gathered all their remaining cash and stuffed it in his pockets. Then he looked Ariel again and did a double take. Her face was caked with beige makeup. She’d already wrapped the scarf around her head and zipped up the down coat. When she put on the sunglasses she looked like an old woman, an ailing, shriveled, sallow biddy dressed against the cold.
“Wow,” he marveled. “You look terrible.”
“Thank, sonny,” she said in a quavering voice. “You don’t look so hot yourself.”
Alpert does a good job of creating the chaos that comes from being chased by the good guys, the bad guys, and the worse guys. This is a violent story, but it fits the plot and makes things edgier and frightening.
Alpert’s note at the end of the book says the story idea came from helping his son work on a term paper. What a great way to get an idea. The idea was just a spark, but Alpert took it and created a full-blown story that will help you once again believe “they walk among us.”
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Leigh Neely is a former journalist and editor who now writes fiction with her writing partner, Jan Powell. The first book of “The Connelly Witches” miniseries for Harlequin E is out now. Witch’s Awakening by Neely Powell introduces Brenna Connelly as she deals with the family’s centuries-old curse. Leigh also writes for the popular blog, WomenofMystery.net.
Read all posts by Leigh Neely for Criminal Element.