Posted on May 11, 2010 by Steven Dawes
Available at DriveThruHorror.com
I became an instant fan of David Niall Wilson’s work when I had read This is My Blood a few months ago. Since reading and reviewing this new personal favorite book of mine, I’ve kept in touch with David here and there. During one of our chats he’d mentioned one of his latest books titled On the Third Day and its subject being deep-rooted in religious themed horror, much like This is My Blood. I was immediately intrigued and I set off to read it as soon as possible.
My original intention was to read it during the week of Easter as the novel revolves around Easter Sunday. Sadly however, this was not to be as my laptop went ill for a few weeks, delaying my reading it (or any of the other books in my E-library waiting to be read and reviewed.) I was finally able to read it this last week, and I’m happy to say that whether you read it during the Easter season or not, the story and the messages contained within it are just as powerful!
The story begins with Father Quentin Thomas, a priest who leads a congregation that worships at San Marcos by the Sea, a small cathedral in San Valencez, California. While Quentin is leading Easter Mass one Sunday, something extraordinary happens: Father Thomas experiences what can only be described as suffering the stigmata! Out of a mixture of fear and confusion of what happened to him, he seeks the help and advisement of his immediate supervisor, Bishop Tony Michael’s. The Bishop however, is not amused anymore than he believes that Quentin experienced any sort of “incident”. The Bishop’s status quo and quiet lifestyle is threatened by this unexpected turn of events and reacts with disbelief and hostility. Needless to say, Father Thomas’ cries for help and explanations fall on deaf ears.
A year later, during the following Easter Sunday, the Bishop decides to attend Father Thomas’ Mass, armed with a more than healthy dose of disbelief and a video camera, determined to discover what chicanery the Priest is up to and debunk it. Not entirely unexpectedly, Father Thomas not only repeats the miraculous experience, but it’s more pronounced and powerful that the year prior! While still vehemently disbelieving in the miraculous nature of these events, Bishop Michael’s is at a loss to explain it. He goes up the chain of command, requesting to bring in a professional to figure out this little mystery. Enter Father Donovan Prescott.
Father Prescott works for the Vatican as a professional miracle hunter, spending his days researching claims of modern miracles to either confirm of debunk them. But more than that, Father Prescott’s a hard boiled seeker of truth, making him the ideal person to get to the bottom of whatever is going on here. However, with the next Easter Sunday looming overhead, all three of these men of god have different stakes invested in Father Prescott’s findings, and each one feels differently about the possibility of a miracle taking place. Each one of them has a battery of questions concerning these events; questions that will offer them no easy answers, and in some cases the answers might be too horrible to contemplate!
Author David Niall Wilson proves once again what a vivid and agile writer he is with On the Third Day. The details are lush and descriptive; the questions he asks the reader to contemplate are engaging and thought provoking; and the antagonists are just as intriguing as the protagonists (never an easy feat in my experience.) I’ll also say that David’s direction with the horror was so subtle and sneaky, that for awhile I began to wonder if this book was mis-shelved when being labeled a horror novel. However, when it was ready, the horror slinked out of the darkness, tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that it was indeed lurking about, taking me by complete surprise. And when it showed, it came with church bells on!
There are numerous themes the book goes into during the course of the story, such as “faith vs. religion”, what it takes to consider an event to be a bona fide miracle, and what ramifications a bona fide miracle taking place could bring and the effects it can have on someone’s faith. The title even offers multiple meanings throughout the story, but I will leave you to discover them for yourselves. There’s a lot going on in this book, something you just dont see a lot in horror stories, much less performed with as much finesse and magic as David performs here.
For those who haven’t read This is My Blood as of yet (and really, what are you waiting for?), I can say that that On the Third Day is an ideal book to read either before or after you do (I encourage to read this one after it). But on the other hand, this book stands perfectly on its own. You’re not required to read This is My Blood to be able to enjoy On the Third Day or vice versa, the experience of reading both is simply preferred and encouraged by this reviewer.
As seems to be David’s style, this is neither a gore fest nor a visceral, gritty horror experience. It’s subdued and multi-layered, coming on so quietly and unexpected that you may be well within horror’s dark grasp before you even know it. It’s a book that makes you think while it unnerves you to pieces, a feat rarely accomplished these days. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, this book has something to offer everyone, and I’ll end this review the same way I did with my review of This is My Blood; by encouraging you to take a leap of faith on it.
Review by Steven Dawes
Look for more David Niall Wilson and Macabre Ink Digital books at DriveThruHorror.com.