Terror Comes Knocking is the second of Aaron Paul Lazar’s Sam Moore novels, a series which expands his habitual country mystery genre into the paranormal.
Sam Moore, a retired family doctor in rural upstate New York, is a keen gardener. His gardening is described in splendid realistic detail by Mr. Lazar who knows a thing or two himself about gardening. Sam, in a quite unrealistic detail, has discovered in his garden a magic marble that has the power to transport him into the past. In the first novel of the series, Healey’s Cave, the magic powers of the marble gradually revealed to Sam the story of an event that had blighted his life, the disappearance of his beloved younger brother Billy some fifty years previously.
In Healey’s Cave, the magical excursions into the past were essentially flashbacks into the childhood years of Sam, Billy and their friends. In Terror Comes Knocking, one has to believe that Billy, through the magic marble, can now assist Sam in solving a new mystery, another disappearance. This one occurs in the narrative present and involves some major news topics of our time, such as terrorism and the Iraq War.
Sam’s grown-up daughter, Beth, who shares an apartment in Manhattan with an exotic Egyptian woman, has disappeared, and her room-mate claims to have no idea where she is. Billy, child of the past, shows Sam visions of where Beth is, and Lazar uses his considerable story-telling skills to work these visions into an action-packed novel so that the reader is swirled through the normal and paranormal at a fast enough pace to discourage skepticism.
The terror of the title refers not to any abstract form of terror, or horror, but to the concrete threat posed by terrorists. This is the mainspring of the plot. Lazar does not deal in horror but he does deal in adventure. The uniqueness of his mysteries lies for me, however, less in the adventures of the characters, exciting and page-turning though they may be, and more in the relationships between them. The loving relationship of Sam and his wife, a sufferer from multiple sclerosis, the heart-breakingly touching yet realistic way in which they both deal with her illness, their refreshing tolerance in coping with the love-relationships of their children, and their attempts to be fair-minded in the face of people very different from themselves who may or may not be involved in terrorism — all these things raise this novel above the level of pure entertainment.
Not that I have anything against entertainment, and Lazar is very good at that. He is particularly good at suspense-laden chases. This novel culminates in a classic action scene in which Sam Moore, to save the local population from terrorists, makes a mad dash into the town, riding in the end a palomino — a great scene, pure Lazar, not paranormal, just a lot larger than life.
Larger and better, as is this highly entertaining novel as a whole.