Review – The Sacred Sin by Estevan Vega
The Sacred Sin
by: Estevan Vega
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (2007)
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
If you like horror, psychological terror and suspense, The Sacred Sin is the perfect read for you! Centering on L.A. homicide detective Jude Foster, who just happened to be taken in by a priest, at the age of seventeen, after losing his parents at a young age and fleeing from the cops – sure that they were his ticket back to juvi. The Sacred Sin is like a never ending tunnel ride of twists and turns. The reader is gripped within the story’s dark clutches, from the first word until the very last.
Jude is a dark and mysterious, almost tortured character. The author, Mr. Vega, has created a perfect leading character in Jude, as well as an excellent supporting character in Rachel Cragin, who has reluctantly returned to Los Angeles to help in the case of a sinister serial murderer.
Jude does not take kindly to his newest partner, Rachel, after losing his previous partner, Morgan Cross, who was like a brother to him. However, Jude doesn’t have a choice and together, he and Rachel must try to solve a crime spree that leaves it’s victims dead and with an imprint of a cross carved within them (seeming being carved from the inside out). Behind him, the killer leaves a note – phrases from the Bible with certain letters that are highlighted in blood.
There is an evil and sinister force that is out there, killing, taking souls and it all seems to revolve around Jude. But what part does he play in the entire scheme of things? Is there a dark monster lurking within him, waiting to come out and if so, can he stop it before it is too late?
The Sacred Sin is not a story for the squeamish or easily scared or offended. This is a story that takes the reader to the depths of hell and evil – leaving no question about good and villainous. Mr. Vega does a great job of composing his story and bringing the reader into a world of darkness and sinister evil. As I read, I was brought to mind of the writings of Stephen King, Wes Craven, early Dean R. Koontz, as well as Bentley Little. Estevan Vega shows great promise in becoming a lasting novelist and writer of the horror genre.
I greatly enjoyed The Sacred Sin and was woven tight within it tale. There were a few mechanical errors throughout, but not nearly enough to detract from the writing and story itself. I feel that lovers of the genres of horror/supernatural/suspense and thriller will get a charge out of The Sacred Sin and be yearning for more from Mr. Vega. I, for one, cannot wait to see what the future holds for this young talent.
As a side note, I do want to mention the cover artwork. It is fantastic and really represents the story within. Gazing upon the eyes, you are dragged into their reaches – a glimpse into a tortured soul.
About The Sacred Sin:
Everyone has a past. One that is inescapable. Jude Foster, an L.A. homicide detective, is on the brink of mental collapse. A year ago, he was left for dead by Morgan Cross, a once-close friend and partner. Now, although forced to undergo mindless psychoanalytical diatribes in order to be reinstated into the department, the world apathetically spins on. When a dead body is found in West Hollywood, an investigation is set in motion and Jude realizes, with the aid of Rachel Cragin, his annoying new interim partner, that the first victim is only the beginning. The markings on the bodies are trails to a more sadistic pattern of evil, one Jude may or may not recognize. But how does someone stop a killer who’s slaying his victims by stealing their souls, without ever touching them? As the time ticks, the countdown begins. They will have one week to uncover the sacred sin…and the darkness that lies within all men.
About Estevan Vega:
As a young boy, Estevan Vega never really felt interested in the written word. Far more fascinating things like comic book superheroes and sketching fantastical beings caught his eye. But in the fifth grade, writing short essays for a standoffish teacher ignited a fire that is still burning. Using his imaginative father as a springboard for ideas, Vega set out to write a full manuscript. His dream to become a published author came forth when he was just15 years old, releasing his first literary creation, Servant of the Realm,to the world, a story about a teenager who sees the future deaths of those he loves and tries to change it. “There is something therapeutic and natural about breathing life into the mundane, or finding escape through odd characters and strange concepts,” says Vega.
The Sacred Sin, his second book, was published when he was 18, and shows a darker edge and deeper intensity than his first effort. The Sacred Sin bleeds with honesty and emotion, and tells the story of Jude Foster, a cynical self-loathing detective,assigned to bring down a serial killer capable of stealing victim’s souls without ever touching them. Stopping this ghost killer, fighting against his demons, his inner darkness, may be the only path toward sanity and a new beginning. With a curiosity for the supernatural, as well as a feeling of discontentment with humanity’s complacency, Vega’s story-lines dwell somewhere in between fiction and reality, a place where the world is as blurred and irregular as human choice and consequence.
Vega resides in Connecticut, a small New England state most people forget about. Tate Publishing will release his latest creation ARSON in 2009.
Be sure to visit Estevan Vega’s fabulous website:
It wasn’t much of a welcome home, but she expected nothing less.
“I hate this city.”
The thought of returning to the place that took her father so many years ago made her want to puke. Rachel knew in her gut that she had some unfinished business with Los Angeles. It was one of those now or never things.
She fought the invasive hues of light that sketched through her windshield. The midday sun made the drive that much more of a drag. Rachel was still chewing on loose pieces of the fortune cookie she shoveled down her mouth an hour ago. Although it was pointless, she read the small sheet one last time.
“You will meet someone interesting and unique today,” she said. Then she threw it out the window. “Why don’t they just tell me I’m going to breathe today? Could you be any more vague?” Rachel felt her head spin all over again. The fact that she sounded like the valley girls in high school that she always wanted to pummel didn’t help. It’d been three hours since she packed up from San Diego and was on her way to Hell as she knew it. “Okay, get a grip, Rachel, and stop talking to yourself.” She started pacing her breaths, focusing on the road, before screaming at a wild driver. “Yep, I’m home, all right.”
The sky painted a picture of fuchsia and bright orange. Amidst the cloudiness and smog, the breeze felt soothing, but it didn’t do much to calm her down. “What are you doing? This is not what you need. Another case? Are you out of your mind?” Rachel rolled her eyes, bellowing a curse at another driver. This time a taxi.
With both hands choking the steering wheel, she stared at her reflection in the rearview mirror, “Lighten up, right? It’s not what you want, Rachel, but it’s your job. Cities can’t protect themselves.” A sigh. “Oh, stop with the heroine routine, Rachel, you don’t want to go, just say it. You’re afraid…but afraid of what?”
When she found enough space to get off the exit, she stopped at a gas station to fill up. She looked at her watch. Eight o’clock. Exhaling deeply, Rachel blinked a thousand times, before getting out of the car to pump her gas. “Just shut up, Rachel. You talk too much.”
* * * * *
Night found Jude parked on a city corner, cold. He was making a few notes on the printout Mike had given him, and was almost finished when he felt his cell phone vibrate hard in his coat pocket.
“This is Foster,” Jude answered, scratching his cheek. It was the call he felt in his gut right before he got it. Often he’d been mistaken for having some kind of precognition, but he was never the type to embrace identities like a phony psychic or anything spiritual like that.
He listened carefully as he heard the familiar voice of the chief. “Are you okay?” Mike asked immediately, as if he read something severe in the detective’s voice.
“It’s 9:30, Mike, and I’ve spent the last four and a half hours finishing the paperwork on that kid yesterday. So for all intents and purposes, I’m fabulous.”
“Keep your sarcasm, Jude. Unfortunately, I’m at a crime scene. A unit’s on their way now.”
“Near the old factory, West Hollywood. Do you mind coming by?”
“I can always make time for the dead.” Jude hung up, got inside his car and gunned his car engine.
When Jude arrived on the scene, he looked around the perimeter before drawing nearer toward the house. The three family duplex was isolated from houses on either side by at least fifty feet. The factory exuded smoke from its huge cylindrical beams about a hundred yards away.
As soon as Jude stepped through the door, he covered his nose, trying to evade the foul smell that the house filtered out.
“Foster,” called Chief Michael Harrison, “follow me.”
Jude followed him into a dark room filled with obscene posters. He studied one closely. It was of a naked blonde, posing with her chest forward and her tongue sliding through her thick red lips. As she bent over, the coaster on her back of a black snake burned its way into Jude’s head. He focused for a moment on another wall. Beside the grotesque pictures carved into the indigo paint, he read: Die bitch. I hope you rot in hell.
“And they say I’m crazy,” he mumbled to himself.
Mike turned to Jude, “You look like a skeleton. Have you eaten anything?
“I haven’t been hungry.”
“You look tired, too.”
Jude stammered, “Is this a physical or a crime scene?”
Mike folded his arms. “The body was found at about four a.m.”
“And you’re telling me about it now? Why would you withhold something like this from me?” Anger permeated through Jude’s gaze.
“Whitney was the first to see the body early this morning. Let’s face it; you weren’t exactly all together.”
Forensics had been called to take pictures and collect DNA. One of the unit members was consoling a hysterical woman about twenty-two years old. Jude still hadn’t even seen a body yet, but this had already evolved into a nasty investigation.
“Show me the stiff,” Jude said in a forceful tone.
Mike led him to the adjacent room and pointed to a horrid creature sprawled out on the floor with bloodshot eyes and a gaping off-centered jaw.
Jude stared; he tried to remain calm.
“Black male,” Mike said, “His name is Darius Garnett. He’s about thirty or so. Time of death…3:14 a.m.”
With a sigh, Jude asked, “There’s no bullet hole, no marks around the neck, no knife wounds. But from the looks of him, he sure as hell struggled. Do we know the cause of death?”
“That’s what we’ve been trying to figure out,” Mike said.
“But take a look under his chin.”
Jude put on a glove and lifted the man’s face. When he stared closely into the wound, he saw a black cruciform burned into the skin, permanent, as if tattooed.
“What do you make of it?” asked Mike.
“My guess…some religious fanatic who wanted to get a point across,” Jude said. “But what’s the motive?”
“As of now, we don’t know.”
Jude turned his gaze to the hysterical woman. “What about her, does she know anything?”
“She’s about as lucid as my mother on morphine.” Mike licked his lips. “We’ve tried getting information out of her, but she’s not cooperating.”
Jude looked at the body again, inquisitively.
“This doesn’t make much sense, I know,” Mike admitted.
“Maybe it makes perfect sense.”
“What do you mean? This man didn’t swallow any poison, and despite his drug habits, he didn’t overdose.”
“Drug habits? I want information on all his dealings with any neighborhood scum. I want his dealer’s name and address.”
“So you want the case?”
“Yes,” Jude replied hastily.
Mike narrowed his gaze. “Why do you want it so bad?”
The silence in Jude’s face echoed in his eyes.
“Am I missing something?”
Jude stood, moved his eyes back and forth, and approached Mike. “Have you thought about the possibility that this might involve…Victor?”
“Who?” Mike said, as if he’d forgotten the name.
“Call me crazy, Mike, but I think it’s safe to say that Victor might be a suspect.”
Mike shook his head. “Anything’s possible, detective—” he began to roll his eyes, “but it’s highly unlikely that Victor is responsible for this.”
“Why, because he’s been missing for years?”
“For starters…yes. Not to mention the fact that you and your deluded ex-partner were the only ones to ever even see him.”
Jude half-smirked. “Look, I’ve seen Victor, okay. And you’ve seen his handiwork before. God knows those bodies weren’t normal.”
Mike looked heavily into Jude, before replying, “But a cross, Foster? That’s not his mark.”
Jude rubbed his forehead. “You’re right, but it could still be him.”
“Now we’re right back to motive. He’s been missing for three years. No one knows if he’s still alive. And even if he is, why would he risk his safety in hiding for a few quick thrills here in Los Angeles?”
“Because he can. Victor never touched anyone; he killed them some other way. This all sounds like some kind of story, but somehow he killed them. He believes he’s invincible. Maybe he wants to stir up commotion in the department that sought to put him away.”
Mike still didn’t agree. “You’re leaving too much up to chance. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Since when did an investigation make sense? Look, you’re right, Mike, it’s a far cry. However, I think it would be smart to cover our asses here, in the event that this bastard…” he pointed down at the corpse, “really does belong to our friend Victor.”
Before Jude could spit out another sentence, a woman approached them both. “I agree with him, Mike.”
With a smile, Mike greeted her. “Jude, this is…”
“Rachel Cragin. I’ve worked homicide for five years in San Diego,” she said, firmly shaking Jude’s hand. “Chief Harrison contacted me last night, this morning actually, and I left as soon as I could.”
Jude, still puzzled, looked at Mike. “So why is she here? I thought I had the case.”
“You do, but Rachel is here to help.”
Jude leaned in toward Mike, ignoring Rachel completely.
“Mike, after all I’ve been through, the last thing I need is another partner. I thought you knew me better.”
“This is a crime scene, detective. Now is not the time to argue
“I realize that, sir, but I don’t need her help.”
Rachel tapped Jude’s shoulder. “I can hear everything you’re saying. So why don’t we cut the crap. I’m not here to step on anyone’s toes. I’m here—”
“Because you can’t solve this case alone, Jude.” Mike looked at Rachel.
Jude studied her frame: freckles dotted her nose, and she had a small face. Her auburn hair cascaded backward into a bun. A small figure balanced out her independent features. Although she was only about five foot four or so, she looked tough.
“Look, whoever did this is still out there. As a detective, you should know that every little bit helps.” Her oval eyes gazed into Jude. “I know what happened between you and your former partner. I can only assume that’s why you’re so hesitant with me. I want to nail this scumbag as much as you do.”
“Enough with the adolescent bullshit,” Mike coughed dust out from his throat. “This place is like a cellar. Listen to me, both of you. Forensics will get the prints to the station as soon as they’ve checked them in at the lab. In the meantime, you two have got some acquainting to do and a case to look into. Foster, let me know if you find anything.”
Jude rolled his eyes at Mike, who was already walking away. Meanwhile, Rachel paced the floor, glancing at the body and all around the room. He watched her make a few notes and put the tiny booklet into her pocket. Then he gave her a hard look as he stepped away from the dead body.
She said, “So are you always this friendly to new people?”
“No,” he replied grimly.
He took a last glance at the pale life as it was being stuffed into a body bag. A chill rushed up his spine, as he muttered, “Stiffs.”
Rachel had left the room when Jude found a torn sheet of paper tucked beneath a loose floorboard. Anxiously, he studied it, reciting the words slowly in his mind, Thou shalt not kill.
With every condemning thud in his chest, it became difficult to breathe. When Jude felt the still-wet note with his fingertip, his head pounded. The U was written in blood.