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The Searchers
Book One: City of Iron

Chet Williamson
Avon Books, 340 pages

The Searchers, Book One: City of Iron
Chet Williamson
Chet Williamson is perhaps best known for his early horror novels. But he has branched out into contemporary thrillers and fantasy for Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft. His novels include Soulstorm (1986), Ash Wednesday (1987), Lowland Rider (1988), Dreamthorp (1989), Reign (1990), Mordenheim (1994), Second Chance (1994) and Murder in Cormyr (1996).

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A review by Todd Richmond

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The Searchers, Book One: City of Iron appears to be trying to cash in on the popularity of TV shows like The X-Files, Millennium, and PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal. There's no doubt that we're seeing more books about government conspiracies, supernatural activities and alien abductions. Not a bad thing if you're a fan of the genre. The Searchers, Book One: City of Iron is right on target with hints of secret organizations within the government, mysterious holy hitmen, and immortal Scotsmen with links to the Knights Templar. But lest you get the wrong idea, it's not as bad as it sounds. Chet Williamson makes a decent effort at combining an action thriller with supernatural investigation.

The Searchers, Book One: City of Iron begins with a mysterious meeting of eleven men. While they wait for a 12th to join them, they each proceed to give reports of the missions they have undertaken in the last year. Their missions consist of investigating supernatural activity and exposing frauds. Their real purpose is to determine whether the activities they are investigating are caused by a mysterious figure known as The One. Before the last member of their group can join them, an unidentified assassin poisons the men. When the 12th man finally arrives, it is too late -- he gathers their papers and IDs and burns their bodies.

The story then moves to the three main characters of the book: Laika Harris, a specialist in running covert ops; Joseph Stein, an analyst and researcher; and Tony Luciano, an expert at breaking and entering and "wetwork". Richard "Cloudy" Skye, a high-ranking CIA official, brings the three CIA operatives together to expose a mentalist/psychic as a fraud. Confused at the change from their normal assignments, the three nonetheless succeed in proving the psychic a fake in front of a large audience. Pleased at their success, Skye reveals that the three are to form a new team -- "assigned to further projects for which there are no known natural explanations or solutions, cases that would suggest the paranormal to superstitious minds."

Their first real case is to investigate the charred remains of eleven men found in a burned down hunting lodge in Platsburg, New York. When the dental records of the remains are examined, the investigators discover some of the teeth exhibit signs of dental techniques that had not been used for centuries. The tabloids speculate that the meeting was a secret gathering of immortals that had gone awry. To their amazement, the team discovers evidence that the some of the story may have been true. Before they can investigate further, they are pulled off the case without warning and sent to New York City.

The team is given two assignments in New York. Under the guise of investigators for the National Science Foundation's Division of Special Investigation, they are to examine a deserted row of townhouses, thought to be haunted. A separate case involves looking into the disappearance of an artist from a locked room. While the haunted townhouse proves to be a simple case, the disappearing artist is a more perplexing problem. The team discovers that the artist, Peder Holberg, would disappear for short periods of time, with no memory of where he had been. Before long they are drawn into an increasingly bizarre case involving immortals, the Roman Catholic Church, death and mayhem.

The Searchers, Book One: City of Iron claims to be for fans of The X-Files and Men in Black, combining covert activities with the supernatural. In fact, it more closely resembles some of the action thrillers of novelists like David Morrell or Robert Ludlum, with an emphasis on the supernatural and the paranormal. Most the team's work is straightforward research and good old-fashioned common sense. They are skeptical of their findings and cautious in putting forth hypothesis regarding the strange things they encounter. There's some sneaking around and violence to satisfy action fans, and just enough clues to keep you reading. And that's the most disappointing thing about it -- we'll have to wait for the next one(s) to see how it all ends.

Copyright © 1998 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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