Verdict: IN THE SHADOW OF ST. ANTHONY is a story that manages to both warm the heart and chill the spine -- a rather impressive combination.
An arrogant, selfish adolescent must find the better man inside him when an old friend is attacked by supernatural forces.
Tommy Santalesa is attractive, charming and makes the best tomato sauce around – but he can’t play the bass, and he’s a self-centered jerk. This is a problem, because his band, Fly Trap, has the possibility of going all the way to stardom, if only Tommy doesn’t drag the other two band members down. The guitarist, Frank Balistrieri, is a musical genius, but neither he nor drummer Moe Martinez can bring themselves to kick out a friend, and Tommy isn’t above using that sentiment. Not only that, but Tommy has deliberately manipulated Frank’s love life in order to distract him from Anne-Marie Mariani, the girl Tommy himself wants. But then Frank disappears, and Anne-Marie calls Tommy on his selfishness in a rather delightfully blunt fashion. His conscience awakening, he goes out to find his friend and make amends. When he does find Frank, though, he can’t help but notice that something is very wrong. Among other things, his old friend has no pulse, and two mysterious marks on his neck. Can Tommy figure out how to be a hero in time to save Frank from a fate worse than death?
IN THE SHADOW OF ST. ANTHONY is a charming story of friendship and coming of age, with a bit of romance for spice – that just happens to be set in the middle of a horror movie. The two blend surprisingly well. Tommy, while initially rather unlikeable, faces his flaws like a man as the story goes on, and becomes a better person for it. Supporting characters, particularly the intelligent, take-no-nonsense Anne-Marie, are full of personality and vigor, and have a warm reality to them that draws the reader into their lives. The more adult romance between Doc Myers, the anxiety-prone vet, and his assistant, Cynthia Batista, is played partly for amusement as their insecurities conflict, but has its tender side too. The supernatural scenes are downright creepy, and certain parts of the tale may give more sensitive readers nightmares, but the true horror fan will enjoy them. Little details, like the banter between Tommy and Moe, or the nickname with which Tommy sticks a particularly unpleasant character, add a pleasant dash of humor, distracting the reader agreeably but never taking away from the darkness at its heart.
The author spends a good bit of time on physically describing his characters, which in some cases is useful but goes a bit too far and sometimes drags down the story. The energy might be better spent in expanding the villain’s backstory somewhat and giving the reader a bit more of her tale from her own mouth and point of view. There’s more potential there than the author exploits. Additionally, the final epilogue doesn’t add much to the story and feels a bit out of place.
IN THE SHADOW OF ST. ANTHONY is a story that manages to both warm the heart and chill the spine — a rather impressive combination.