Justin Perry, the assassin, is back!
And he’s just as screwed up as usual.
Continuing the theme of the first Justin Perry novel, 1983’s Vatican Kill finds the CIA still battling the evil plans of SADIF. A Nazi sympathizer named Carl Werner is working as a gardener at the Vatican and masterminding SADIF’s European operations. Justin Perry’s boss, the enigmatic Old Man, not only wants Werner to die, he wants it to be such a cruel and sadistic death that it will send a message to all of America’s enemies. Among Werner’s many crimes is developing a nuclear warhead that SADIF is planning to fire at Venus in an attempt to wow the world. Unfortunately, as a scientist helpfully explains at the start of the book, blowing up Venus will also destroy the universe so the stakes are pretty high!
The reader might assume that, with the future of the universe at stake, Justin Perry might actually focus on his job for once. The reader would be wrong. The world’s greatest assassin is just as easily distracted in this book as he was in the second. When I reviewed the first book, I mentioned my theory that the series was meant to be a satiric. Justin Perry was just too weird and sex-obsessed to be viewed as anything other than a parody of the traditional, hypermasculine pulp hero. There are definitely elements of satire in Vatican Kill but, oddly enough, there are also several passages in which Perry sincerely contemplates why he cannot accept the idea of a benevolent God, passages that suggest that the author was trying to make some sort of larger point about the mysteries of existence. Of course, there are also several overheated flashbacks to a childhood trip to India, during which Perry both lost his virginity and he witnessed a train crash rather than run over a cow. Just as in the first book, it turns out that everything that happened in his past is connected to what’s happening in the present….
It’s a weird book. To be honest, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of some of the weird things that happen in Vatican Kill. Justin Perry is as obsessed with sex and violence as ever while the villains of SADIF continue to come up with with elaborate tortures. (This book didn’t do much to help me with my fear of dogs.) I haven’t even gotten into Werner’s demand that Justin Perry assassinate the King and Queen of Spain for …. reasons, I guess. Just as with the first book, describing the plot of Vatican Kill probably makes it sound more interesting than it actually is. As over the top as all of the action and the scheming is, the prose describing it is fairly mundane and the author continually gets lost in Perry’s ruminations about God and the past. I have to admit that I read the book very quickly, first because it was called Vatican Kill and I can only imagine what my Spanish and Italian grandmothers would have thought about that and secondly, because Justin Perry was such a creepy character that I really didn’t want to spend too much time with him. The book ended on a note so grotesque that I washed my hands afterwards. Seriously, Justin Perry was one messed up dude!