The Reckoning is Huggins’ second novel and it’s very different from A Wolf Story, his first novel. He moves from an allegorical tale of good vs. evil among the animals of the forest to a modern day (well, 1994) urban action/espionage thriller. But he still has his main strength here, a gift for propulsive, edge of your seat, intense action sequences. In this story, ex-mercenary Jonathan Gage returns from his exile in order to keep a mysterious group of super-soldiers from gaining control of an ancient manuscript that reportedly reveals the identity of the antichrist. Huggins’ Christianity is more explicit in this book since it’s not an allegory, but it’s not in a cheesy way, particularly because it’s counter balanced with a lot of realism and expertise in the thriller elements. I particularly like the way Huggins engages with the element of violence and injury in this book. At one point, Gage is involved in an action sequence and things just grind to a halt for over two weeks as he recuperates. In any book like this, the people have to be somewhat super-human, but Huggins makes you well aware that a single knife slash across the inside of your wrist can put your hand out of commission for days and that you can’t easily shrug off the broken bones that can result from being shot in a bullet proof vest. Huggins has created a ton of great archetypal characters here: Father D’oncetta, a corrupt Catholic priest; Sato, a psychopathic Japanese knife-fighter; Robert Milburn, an old comrade of Gage that find himself caught on the wrong side of this fight; Nathaniel Kertzman, a cantankerous FBI agent who stops at nothing to find the truth; Radford, an amoral government bureaucrat. This book is long at nearly 500 pages, and very dense, but it’s a compulsive page-turner. A gunfight at an isolated cabin, an attempted incursion into a cathedral . . . these are brilliant action sequences. Of the confrontations between Gage & Sato, two skilled knife-fighters, well . . . just read it. Is it occasionally, as A Wolf Story was, too talky when it gets into philosophical matters? Yes. But it’s worth it, well worth it, in fact. The Reckoning is an atmospheric, intense action thriller and those don’t come cheap. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – action/espionage features memorable archetypes and intense action; occasionally too talky, but its philosophical pretensions are secondary to its thrills. 3 ½ stars.