Mark Allen Smith is a screenwriter and a television and documentary film producer. The Inquisitor is his debut novel.
THE STORY: After waking up on a Greyhound bus in New York City with no memory of his past, Geiger, possessed of an uncanny ability to discern truth from lies, soon establishes himself as a professional torturer specializing in "information retrieval" for wealthy, unscrupulous clients. Despite his impassiveness, however, he balks when a client shows up with a 12-year-old boy, the son of a suspected art thief, who refuses to reveal his father's whereabouts. He rebuffs his client and, to save the child from his business rival, he abducts him and goes into hiding. His actions, however, set off a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that may hold the key to his past ... if he survives.
Henry Holt. 336 pages. $27. ISBN: 9780805094268
Daily Mail (UK) [CRISSIC]
"This is a stunning debut from an American screenwriter that is original, horrifying and yet utterly compelling. ... It paints a subtle, horrifying portrait of how easy it is to justify torture. Not for the fainthearted, but as compelling, dramatic and moving as a Goya painting when it comes to the depiction of pain." GEOFFREY WANSELL
Guardian (UK) [EXCELLENT]
"The danger with a 'strong' protagonist is that he overpowers the plot. Smith understands this, giving him enough human qualities to offset his blank ruthlessness and us occasional insights into Geiger's damaged brain via the flashbacks that accompany his migraines. The result is one of the most original debut thrillers since SJ Watson's Before I Go To Sleep." JOHN O'CONNELL
San Antonio Exp-News [EXCELLENT]
"Geiger is neither a hero nor a villain; he's a man living on the edge between both. Mark Allen Smith has hit a home run with his first novel, and readers will want more stories involving Geiger." JEFF AYERS
Washington Post [EXCELLENT]
"Much credit goes to Mark Allen Smith for placing such an inflammatory subject front and center in this absorbing, highly accessible novel. Without flinching from or minimizing Geiger's very real atrocities, Smith manages to locate the man's nascent humanity." BILL SHEEHAN
NYTimes Book Review [EXCELLENT]
"But although he successfully transforms Geiger into a sympathetic hero by sending him into battle against extremely nasty foes, Smith isn't about to give up his original torture scheme. The curious result is something like an X-rated Disney movie--extremely graphic scenes of physical violence and mental suffering embedded in a rather sweet adventure story about a damaged man who heals himself by saving a child from a similar fate." MARILYN STASIO
This "remarkably assured first novel" (Washington Post) took the critics by surprise. Smith ventures into shaky territory by casting his protagonist in the unpalatable--indeed, repulsive--role of torturer, with all the social baggage that image carries. However, he manages to humanize Geiger without trivializing his violent behavior, transforming this sensitive subject material into a fast-paced narrative that is as unsettling as it is enthralling. Despite Smith's screenwriting experience, the critics considered The Inquisitor a powerful and literate novel untainted by big-screen allusions. Readers should be aware that Smith's vivid descriptions of torture may offend some. Nevertheless, many will find The Inquisitor is "an auspicious and provocative beginning" (Washington Post) from a writer to watch.