The Oculi Incident

Author: Regis Schilken
TurnKey Press
RRP 9.99, US $16.95
ISBN 0 9764981 3 8
Available 31 May 2005

In 1995 at Saint Luke's Monastery, Brother Anthony disappears one night during a game of cards. Although the police are called, Officer Timothy Comstock is never able to solve the mystery of his friends disappearance. Now, seven years later another mystery, possibly a miracle, is occurring at Saint Martins Church, the eyes of the ancient crucifix, the Oculi, have started shedding tears. As the congregation and media are quick to declare this a miracle, Tim is not so sure. Pastor of the church, Paul Logue, also has his doubts about this new supernatural event, but when people start dying he wonders if it is not the work of the devil...

The Oculi Incident, by Regis Schilken, is set in and around Pittsburgh, an area in which Schilken has lived all his life, predominantly working in the area of education; he has penned a number of other works.

On the surface Oculi plays out like your average detective story. A mystery happens and the hero, in the shape of the law, works out the problem. The nice thing about Oculi is the layers that are placed upon this simple premise. Schilken seems very interested in the interface between science and faith. As the crucifix becomes an object of adoration, money flows into what was a fairly poor church, mammon pushes many in the church to sidestep issues of faith and the search for the truth. Louge is further distressed when the increase in riches is followed by the deaths of a number of people who attempt to investigate the truth behind the tears.

Most of the motivations which drive the characters are fairly self evident. The most complex character though, is pastor Logue. One would imagine that any priest who has a supposedly miraculous happening in his church would embrace it with all the religious fervour that he could muster. Straddled between the need of his congregation and the desire of the church hierarchy for the miracle to be a true vilification of their faith, Logue holds onto his doubt, doubts which force him to seek the truth. Throughout the book the author skilfully maintains the air of mystery, keeping the reader off balance, unable to decide whether this is some sort of scam or a real religious event.

The book has many twists and turns which will keep the reader turning the page. The relationships between the various characters are realistic and well developed. So if you're looking for a sort of modern Cadfael this is the book for you. I suggest you do not miss this wonderfully written novel.

Charles Packer

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