Warning: This writeup contains spoilers about the F. Paul Wilson novel The Tomb. Proceed at your own risk if you haven't read it.
In 1984, F. Paul Wilson introduced his most captivating character, Repairman Jack. After a whirlwind adventure fighting ancient curses and mythical beasts, as well as the more mundane street thugs, he seemed to abandon Jack, leaving him to die from his injuries after he refused the offer of a magical necklace that would heal him and render him all but immortal. Fourteen years later, after constantly facing the question "When are you bringing back Repairman Jack?", Wilson finally produced the first in a hopefully long-lived series of Repairman Jack novels: Legacies.
As always, it starts with a relatively straightforward job. Gia DiLauro has been volunteering at the Center for Children with AIDS for a while when she finds that the donated Christmas gifts for the kids have been stolen. The police aren't terribly hopeful about recovering them, so she suggests to the Center's director, Dr. Alicia Clayton, that a guy she knows, one who fixes situations for people, might well be able to help. And so Repairman Jack finds himself on the trail of the man who stole Christmas.
After recovering the presents, and meting out poetic justice in his own inimitable style (involving a Santa Claus costume, lead-filled weighted gloves, and a bullet-proof vest), Jack leaves the thief tied to the bumper of his own truck in front of a police station. Dr. Clayton realizes that a man who could pull that off could well help her with her own more personal problems, involving the house her late father left to her. So she hires Jack herself, and despite his personal rules against getting emotionally involved in his cases, Jack finds himself drawn to the pediatrician who clearly has closets full of skeletons in her hidden past.
Dr. Clayton's father, a brilliant physicist, died in a plane crash and left to her the house she grew up in. Though she despised the man and wants nothing to do with the house and its painful memories, she's determined that it not fall into the hands of her only other living relative, her hated half-brother Thomas. She has refused his offers to buy the house from her for ever-increasing sums, so he's started legal proceedings to have the will set aside. It sounds like a legal problem to Jack, and not something within his realm of expertise, until she tells him that everyone who has tried to help her with the situation is dead. The investigator she hired to check out her brother was killed in a hit and run, and the lawyer who was working on the will was blown up by a car bomb as she waited to meet with him. Clearly some very powerful and dangerous people want to keep her from the house, and it's up to Repairman Jack to protect her interests and figure out the awesome secret it hides.
Repairman Jack was not originally going to be one of F. Paul Wilson's major recurring characters with a series all his own. Though he wasn't quite dead at the end of The Tomb, he was clearly well on his way, and this was a major point the author needed to address early in Legacies. It felt a little contrived to have a moment when Jack and Gia remember how she and Abe Grossman returned to Jack's apartment after he wouldn't answer his phone and rush him off to the doctor in the nick of time, but that was probably the best possible solution. It would have been much worse, for example, to have given Kolabati a change of heart and have her sneak back and place the necklace around his unconscious neck, or something similar.
Wilson also begins what seems to have become an ongoing theme in the Repairman Jack novels by including a side-story dealing with a more straightforward job Jack is working on. In this case, the client owns a office cleaning business and was employed by a man who now refuses to pay them. He can't go to the police, because several of his cleaning crew are in the country illegally, so turning to Repairman Jack (via Jack's website, no less) is his only recourse. Seeing Jack work on this problem, and apply the perfect poetic justice to the situation is entertaining reading in its own right.
We also start to see that, though Jack has personal rules to the contrary, he often finds himself emotionally involved in his cases. He tries to think of himself as a businessman like any other, working strictly for the cash. As with The Tomb, some emotional involvement is unavoidable, as Gia asks him to look into the stolen toys, and Jack cannot help but be moved, and enraged, by the idea that someone would steal from a group of children who have nothing else in the world. But he has every opportunity to walk away from Dr. Clayton's personal situation, and his instincts tell him at every turn to do just that. He even tries to walk out when she asks him to burn down her father's house. But he always returns, always wanting to help this woman who seems to have suffered so much, even though she won't let on what demons her past might hold. He's intrigued with the mystery she represents and has a great deal of respect for the strength she shows time and again, and in the end, he just can't help himself.
With Legacies, F. Paul Wilson proves he doesn't have to trot out supernatural horrors to write a solid, suspenseful adventure story. The evil Jack must confront is wholly of this world, and much more mundane than the likes of the rakoshi. The central issue is one of technology, rather than magic, and whether the world is ready for certain technological advances. Despite, or perhaps even because of, its moral messages, it's still a great adventure yarn, and well worth taking an evening to read.
Wilson, F. Paul. Legacies. Tom Doherty Associates. 1998.
----. The Tomb. Whispers Press. 1984.