Glenn Cooper’s Secret of the Seventh Son—a great debut

It is hard to imagine that Secret of the Seventh Son is Glenn Cooper’s first book. The debut author deftly juggles several plot lines and genres that eventually come together in a satisfying climax. His characters are believable and charismatic, and each new element he reveals is well planned, while just shocking enough to keep readers from saying, “I knew that was coming.”

The dialogue is particularly impressive, as each character speaks in a distinctive and appropriate voice and does this in a way that is hardly noticeable.

This is a fast, exciting read, so I’ll just reveal a bit about how Cooper uses each genre as the novel bounces back and forth from place to place and time to time.

It’s tough to successfully mix genres in a novel, but in Cooper’s first try, he successfully blends at least five types of fiction writing, maybe more; I stopped counting after five.

  • The historical novel: On July 7, 777, a child is born in England. He is the seventh son of a seventh son. He doesn’t have much personality, but he has a pretty weird talent. A significant portion of the book takes place in 8th century England. Later, in 1947, British researchers make a startling discovery that the Brits can’t handle on their own. Churchill calls Truman and asks for help.
  • The thriller: In New York City it appears a serial killer is on the loose. Six seemingly unrelated people have died. The only link is that each has received a postcard with a a picture of a coffin and the date of his or her death before it happens. All of the postcards were mailed in Las Vegas. And more cards keep coming. The FBI assigns special agent Will Piper, an expert in serial murder, to the case. Piper is just a year from retirement and is ambivalent about taking on the “Doomsday Killer,” as the press has dubbed him. He is assigned a new partner, the young and attractive Nancy Lipinski.
  • The romance novel: Piper is assigned a new partner, the young and attractive Nancy Lipinski.  You can easily imagine where this is going.
  • The science fiction novel: Guess what the result of Churchill and Truman’s chat was. Give up? Area 51. Enough said.
  • The horror novel: Strange things happen in crypts and catacombs as the seventh son begins to procreate and ply his secret ability with his equally weird progeny. There are no ghosts here, but some of the killings are grisly enough.

A sequel will follow next summer, tentatively called Book of Souls, but not to worry: there is no cliffhanger ending to Secret of the Seventh Son. Cooper ties up everything with a bow in this one. And the characters deserve an encore, at least, the ones who lived through the first book.

Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.


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