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May 08 , 2008

North of Heaven


Father Norton Laird is a man with a history. Apollo is his brilliant but demented antagonist, hell-bent on destroying society and reconstituting it in his own image. North had left behind his years of service as a Special Forces operative in the Australian army after marrying a woman who he thought was lost to him. Choosing a more passive role as an analyst in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, North pursues a life of wedded bliss, believing that this beautiful and erudite woman will be his salvation. His wife of eighteen months is torn from him, brutally murdered while North is away on an assignment. Shattered by the events, North cloisters himself in his church and immerses himself in the priesthood hoping to heal his broken psyche. But the Church has other plans for North’s particular skill set. North’s first encounter with Peter Halligan is as Lieutenant Norton Laird of the Australian Special Forces. Asked to speak at his alma mater’s graduating class, North is engaged by Peter in a contentious and virulent debate on the subject of church vs. science. As the years progress, Peter is acknowledged by society for his brilliance, but eventually rejected by the same society because of his inherent nature. The progression of their relationship is as natural as the age-old battle between good and evil. North, seconded into his new role as force majeure for the Vatican, confronts real world threats to the stability of the church while battling his own constant struggle with faith. North’s personal moral compass is simplistic. He has always believed in the existence of two opposing forces that govern the world: Good vs. Evil. The resurrection of old demons in his renewed combative role, this time as a warrior priest, will test North’s belief system and bring him full cycle. He and his companions have to marshal resources to combat a threat emanating from North’s last mission as a Special Forces soldier. The incursion into the African Congo resulted in the death of his entire team; North’s survival seemed like a miracle at the time. Now, seemingly a lifetime later, the virus from the Ebola River that killed his men has been reconstituted in a new and more deadly form and threatens the existence of mankind. The battle is enjoined as North and three of his companions are celebrating his 40th birthday in a San Francisco restaurant. The evening implodes when the members of the dinner party simultaneously receive a text message. The attachment to the text displays in horrific detail the ritual killing of a prominent politician and intimates an imminent threat. It is signed “Apollo.” The subsequent race to uncover enigmatic clues supplied by the taunting Apollo leads North and his companions on a race from the dark under-belly of San Francisco to a remote island in the south Pacific. North has to call on the Vatican Bank to enlist their expertise in the shrouded world of international banking and the alternate internet cosmos known to criminal enterprises as the Darknet. North is also assisted by Opus Dei, a century’s old shadow Church group to help equip him with the necessary tools of engagement. To execute the final life and death struggle, an unproven stealth technology developed for the Navy Seals is employed to engage his adversary. The story moves at breakneck speed to a conclusion that is both satisfying and deeply disturbing.
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