Book review: Legion

LegionLegion by William Peter Blatty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1983, twelve years after The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty wrote Legion, a sequel of sorts that switches focus away from Regan MacNeil to the rumpled, philosophical and schmaltz-loving police detective William Kinderman as he investigates a series of gruesome murders in Georgetown. The novel presents the possibility that the supposedly deceased serial killer known as The Gemini Killer (modeled after the real-life Zodiac killer) has somehow started murdering again. As Kinderman investigates he begins to see signs that tie the new killings to the events surrounding the exorcism of Regan more than a decade earlier.

Kinderman is a character Blatty obviously loves writing about and it shows throughout Legion. The detective goes from long ruminations on the nature of evil to complaining about a live carp his mother-in-law is keeping in his bathtub (she likes her fish fresh). As the body count rises and Kinderman heads into the psych ward of a hospital looking for leads, things turn increasingly dark before coming to a head when it seems no one is truly safe from the killer or killers. Blatty has characters fighting to determine what is real and what isn’t as the demonic influence strengthens. Although I never found the novel especially scary, it is unnerving and the suspense toward the end is well-executed (pardon the pun). The prose often has a lyrical, dream-like quality to it, most obviously when Kinderman or others muse about life, the universe and other suitably cosmic topics.

Legion manages to retain many of the same strengths The Exorcist had while standing apart as something more than just a sequel. If you’ve read The Exorcist and enjoyed the character of Kinderman, Legion is easy to recommend.

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