PS Publishing / 144 pages / 1st edition (June 30, 2002)
It’s so easy to equate evil with the grotesque. Who doesn’t fear the razor-grin of the moray eel, but squeal with delight at the sight of dolphins playing happily offshore? After the thousands of years humans have been around, you’d think we would have gotten past that superficial analysis, but we still believe anything “imperfect” might hurt us. Maybe that why the evil behind beautiful masks is so difficult to perceive until it’s much too late. And Mark Morris knows just how to use that prejudice to twist the knife into his readers.
Into Rob Loomis’ ideal life is about to burst an explosive tragedy, but learning of his father’s suicide is just the first in a series of horrific surprises that will put his happiness and his life in jeopardy. Before Loomis can start to deal with the pain of his suddenly widowed mother, who appears more frail and pitiful than ever. Morris does a masterful job of portraying the stress of trying to care for an aged, lonely parent — a situation most people will face at some point. Loomis’ guilt as he tries to care for his mother while continuing his own life is all too believable and palpable.
Adding to already unbearable circumstances, an unsettling anonymous call informs Loomis that his father was actually murdered. The uglimen, the caller warns, are not satisfied with killing his father; Loomis is to be their next target for assassination. Why this is happening and who really are the uglimen, the voice does not explain. If Loomis is to save himself and his loved ones, he will have to dig into a murky past to uncover what secret ties his family to the killers.
His search will lead to a strange tale of faith, greed, and fatal mistakes a continent away and decades past. He’ll glimpse a side of his father he never suspected and to a crime that set into play a chain of lies, deaths, and fanaticism pointing directly to Rob Loomis. And why, at every step of his investigation, is Loomis haunted by glimpses of his father, his supposedly very dead father? Ghost or man-in-hiding, the image of Loomis’ father may be the final, overwhelming aspect of the nightmare.
Morris is adept at escalating the suspense and level of danger in his stories, and The Uglimen is an excellent, if all-too brief, demonstration of his talent. The tension cranks tighter with every page and every appalling revelation. The uglimen are a masterful choice of villain, with their repulsive outward appearance and their rabid loyalty that pushes all other people and things aside in their unstoppable determination.
The sensitive portrayal of Loomis’ inner struggle to deal with his newly widowed mother merely adds another layer of depth to a complex situation. Not every threat is an unfamiliar face.