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Mark T. Sullivan (b. 1958) is an author of thrillers. Born in a Boston suburb, he joined the Peace Corp after college, traveling to West Africa to live with a tribe of Saharan nomads. Upon returning to the United States, he took a job at Reuters, beginning a decade-long career in journalism that would eventually lead to a job as an investigative reporter for the San Diego Tribune.
Sullivan spent the winter of 1990 living with a group of skiers in Utah and Wyoming, and used the experience as the foundation for his first novel, The Fall Line (1994). In 1995 he published Hard News, a thriller based on his work as a reporter, and a year later he released The Purification Ceremony, which won the WH Smith Award for Best New Talent. His most recent work is Private Games (2012), which he co-authored with James Patterson. Sullivan lives with his family in Montana, where he skis, hunts, and practices martial arts.
It is the last day of November, 1918. The Green Mountains rise on either side of the Bluekill River like mute and paralyzed sentinels, aware of festering intrigues, but powerless to intercede. Sleet pelts the valley floor and the stone-faced buildings of the town of Lawton. Up on the peak flanks, wet snow falls and settles on a log cabin in the loft of which a ten-year-old boy sleeps fitfully under thick wool blankets.
Two hours before dawn the boy stirs at racking, wet coughs in the room below. His half-lidded eyes take in the dozens of nailheads showing through the roof planking. The nailheads have conducted the cold inward and stand out frosted and luminescent against the dark wood. Were it not for the coughing, Dylan could imagine himself awakening outside under the stars in a perfect world where there was no such thing as dying.
"Dylan. Dylan, wake up, for God's sake!"
The boy rolls over on the straw pallet he uses for a bed. The woodsmoke is overwhelmed by the stale, sweaty stench of fever. Lantern light throws twisting shadows on the chinked walls, the hooked rug, the plain pine table his father had crafted the year before leaving for war, and the daybed where his twin sister lies. Anna has not spoken an intelligible sentence in three days and now is but a tiny, gasping face cradled in the puffery of their mother's prize star quilt.
Hettie McColl wrings out a washcloth into a washbasin, folds it and places it carefully on her daughter's flushed brow. "Mama loves you, Anna," she whispers to a girl who cannot hear.
Dylan looks down at his mother and swallows hard. Overnight, Hettie's lovely countenance has ebbed with eachdefeat in Anna's fight for life; her eyes are sunken and black; her cheeks have retreated around the bones of her face. Her lips have cracked. But it is her expression that crushes the boy, an air of despair defeating the hope that her love alone could conquer this fate.
Dylan thinks of his father, who died the year before during a mustard gas attack in the trenches of France. Instinctively, the boy retreats inward; and he sees the world as if through cold, flowing water.
"Dylan!" Hettie calls again.
"What do you want, Ma?" he asks dully.
"Take the horse and go to town, get the doctor," she orders. "Your sister's in a bad way."
"Ain't no doctors left in Lawton, Ma," he replies. "They all left 'cause they was scared they was gonna get it, too."
Dylan has heard it said that in the past six months, twenty million people around the world have died of the Spanish influenza. More than six hundred thousand in the United States have succumbed, far more than the number of soldiers who have died fighting Huns during the entire war. Lawton is the hardest-hit town in Vermont. Dylan has lost an aunt, his maternal grandmother and two cousins to the spiking fevers, splitting headaches and convulsions. Now his sister is following.
A friend at school said the end comes when the lungs fill with liquids. Anna will drown in her bed. And then his mother will get it and Dylan fears he will be left alone to face the fever himself. The boy wants nothing more than to pull his blankets over his head and hide from the horror that swirls in the room around him.
"Then go get the priest," his mother cries in desperation. "Anna don't have much longer."
The boy has heard stories about the priest and he has a sudden resurgence of faith that Anna will live. He tugs on leather boots, parka, cap and mittens and races out into the night. He bridles his father's chestnut mare. He mounts bareback and kicks her into the storm.
It is nearly dawn by the time Dylan makes it down out of the snow line to town and to the brick rectory next to St. Edward's Catholic Church. The wind has quickened, blowing wet leaves through a freezing rain. Dylan stumbles to the front door of the rectory and pounds until, at last, a light comes on in the front hall and an elderly woman in a flannel robe answers.
"Land's sake, boy, what is it?" she scolds. "It's not even the crack of dawn with you smashing the door and the good father lying upstairs so ill."
"My sister's got the fever," he blurts. "My ma sent me for the priest folks say can stop it."
The woman scowls and shakes a fat finger. "Didn't I just say he's—?"
Before she can finish. Dylan hears a deeper, hoarser version of his sister's slurried cough behind the woman. He sees a tall, exhausted man. The priest puts Dylan in mind of a heron on a spring pond: stooped, gaunt, fishhungering and yellow-eyed. An oval of damp silver hair fringes a bald head so drawn down of flesh it seems a skull. Dylan takes a step backward from the apparition.
The priest coughs again before extending his palm. "What is it, my son?"
"My sister," he stammers. "Momma said you been helping some folks with the fever and we done lost our Gammy and my auntie Kate already . . . Momma hoped—"
"I'll come," the priest says.
The elderly woman grabs his elbow. "Father D'Angelo, you're sick enough yourself and the weather . . ."
"I am not important," the priest replies thickly. "The girl is. Help me get prepared."
Dylan lets the priest ride the horse. He leads the mare up through the rain and into the snow falling at the altitude of the cabin. Father D'Angelo says little during the hour march and what support he gives the boy is soon drowned out by the ravages of his coughing. Twice Dylan looks back at the priest, who stares off as if into a bottomless valley.
Posted November 21, 2013
Posted April 1, 2001
I've recently been getting into books lately,..and the first one my friend picked up for me was Ghost Dance. I read the back and thought, what the heck. Well, i started reading the first few pages and then i couldn't stop reading. I was taking like two hour lunches just trying to read as much as i could before getting back to slave labor. This book has a great story, awesome twists and turns an intense climax...it even had a touching ending in a cool way that i almost cried. I highy..Highly recomend this book to anyone who loves great a page turner!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 22, 2001
I read The Purification Ceremony by Mark Sullivan a few days ago. I was expecting more of the same type of story line, action, chase the bad guys and kill him. Not that all this is not in this book, it is packed full of it. I wasn¿t expecting the duel story line. What a wonderful surprise the history story line is. Again, I hung on to every word that Mr. Sullivan wrote in this tight plot. Ghost Dance is more complex than The Purification Ceremony. The author does a great job at weaving everything together. I loved the visions, ghost, etc. I love this type of story any way. You can never out run the past. Mr. Sullivan does a great job of explaining Native American lore and how it intertwines with modern believes. I thank Mark Sullivan for putting so much time and effort into this story. It was great! This is what reading is all about, entertaining the reader. I highly recommended this book. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Airtight Case What A Great Series! Beverly Connor has a wonderful series going with her protagonist Lindsay Chamberlain. This latest addition shows that Ms. Connor has progressed as a writer. This is the best one in a very good series, all of which I have given 4 or 5 stars to in my reviews. Once again, Ms. Connor gives us a past and present mystery. Which is solved with a good solid plot and characterization. In Airtight Case, Ms. Connor shows even more complex plotting than in the other installations. The author never lost me with this plot. I hung onto every word. The ending was well explained and logical. Ms. Connor¿s strongest point is her characterization, not only of her ¿active¿ characters, but also the ones from the past. Reading a Beverly Connor book is like reading two books in one. Both plots converge in the end and it is a fun trip in getting there. I look forward to the next installment in this wonderful and fun series. I highly recommend this book and series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 4, 2009
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