Camille Bacon-Smith,
The Face of Time
(DAW, 1996)

When a team of archeologists working an ancient site in rural England is brutally murdered, New Scotland Yard dispatches a seasoned inspector and his younger, less experienced sergeant -- valuable for his ties to the region -- to investigate. But local lore and mysticism want nothing to do with an official police investigation -- the stubborn locals claim an ancient evil has wakened and requires charms, rituals and sacrifice to contain. Official procedures and sidearms aren't only ineffective, residents warn -- they're dangerous.

Camille Bacon-Smith has written a gripping novel in The Face of Time, which straddles the line between contemporary fantasy and horror. The suspenseful story keeps you guessing -- the real villain makes only a few, vague appearances before the book's conclusion.

But several nitpicky problems interfered with my enjoyment of this book. A minor one is Bacon-Smith's inconsistent use of names -- she can't decide whether to use first or last names, or awkward full names, in her narrative, which jars the story's flow.

A pre-climax "surprise" revelation is projected so far in advance, the requisite shock is completely lost on all but the most clueless of readers.

Most disturbing of all is the ineffectual handling of the two main characters as they approach the problem from different directions. DCI Geoffrey Leach grumbles and fumes at his subordinate's mystic explanations and commands, but never asserts his authority or starts imposing his will the way any senior officer in his position would do. Sgt. Col Gathers, on the other hand, consistently fails to act on his own assertions that Leach's actions and attitudes pose a grave danger to the town; if the stakes are as high as he claims, it's hard to believe he wouldn't take matters into his own hands, consequences be damned.

Face of Time could have been a much better book, given a little more polish and editing. As it is, it still provides a solid day's reading pleasure.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 20 September 2003

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