-- Marcus Levin in
The Sins of Our Father
The less than subtle "Prologue" to The Sins of the Fathers (1979) neatly ties in the title to an incident in the life of a notorious Nazi war criminal known as Papa Otto Fendler, "a geneticist far ahead of his time." Seems ol’ Papa was fond of a select group of children at the concentration camp where he conducted a variety of unseemly experiments. Just what he did to those children will not be fully revealed until the final chapters. And is it possible that Papa Otto has survived the destruction of the camp and is controlling a now adult group of his favorite human guinea pigs?
With ace bacteriologist Sir Marcus Levin on hand partnered with his wife Tania, a former KGB spy, the sinister plans of Papa Otto are proven to involve a form of germ warfare with humans used as a missile substitute. In a pulpy twist many of the infected madmen and madwomen exhibit symptoms indicative of rabies. Blackburn concocts several scenes where this unfortunate rabid-like victims attack innocent bystanders like so many wannabe vampires by taking healthy chomps out of their arms, hands and faces.
It’s not one of Blackburn’s more original stories. He seems to have culled together plot elements from several of his previous books. Interestingly, this book has a few didactic asides in the committee members heated debates. Blackburn raises all sorts of issues related to prison reform. Overcrowding, segregation of prisoners, and reinstatement of the death penalty are among the hot topics discussed at length. This was one of his last books and it may indicate a trend towards social criticism, a path so many genre writers seem to take in their later career as they tire of the so often formulaic structure of crime and thriller fiction. Nazis, viral experimentation on humans, grisly murders and mind control have all been featured in Blackburn's other novels.
Still it’s a neatly plotted book, swiftly paced and jam packed with pulpy adventure sure to satisfy fans of this kind of over-the-top thriller. The climax taking place in the catacombs of an ancient church with our heroes in peril of drowning by the impending flood from the underground River Larne more than makes up for any of the book’s recycled shortcomings.