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The Inquisitor    by Mark Allen Smith order for
by Mark Allen Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have to admit to reservations when I picked up Mark Allen Smith's The Inquisitor - after all it features a professional torturer! But the author of this extraordinary debut thriller makes it work, and even makes his protagonist Geiger engaging as he wins a degree of redemption. The story reminded me a little of the Dexter series.

Geiger is one of two top information retrieval practitioners in the business. He employs more psychological than physical methods, while the other, Dalton, 'worked from the outside in and used a more single-minded, head-on application of brutality.' Geiger sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Corley, on a regular basis. He has personal demons that trace back to his childhood, and give him incapacitating migraines that are increasing in frequency. He has no memories of his life before he arrived in New York in his late teens.

Geiger has had twelve clients in the last eleven years and none have died in one of his sessions. He has studied his craft and its history, and constantly works to refine his subtle techniques. He works only by referral. He has a partner, Harry Boddicker, who reviews requests for Geiger's services and prepares a detailed profile of each new client. Harry needs the money to cover his sister Lily's health care - she's an institutionalized catatonic schizophrenic.

After Geiger accepts a job to discover the whereabouts of a stolen painting from a thief (David Matheson), his carefully built life implodes - quickly and violently. When the client is delivered, it's not Matheson himself but his twelve-year-old son Ezra. And it's not about art. Geiger has never worked with children and is not about to start. He and Ezra, Harry and Lily end up on the run from sinister black ops agents with seemingly infinite resources at their disposal. And Geiger finally meets Dalton up close and personal, and faces his own inquisition.

It's an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride all the way, the reader's interest fueled not only by concern for the survival of the (relatively) good guys, but also by the revelation of Geiger's back story, and by the relationship that develops between him and Ezra. If you enjoy the Dexter books or series, then The Inquisitor is a must read - I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that it's just the beginning for the elusive Geiger.

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